Two Philadelphia City Council employees, a receptionist and a Council sergeant-at-arms, were not authorized to use city vehicles at the time of their DUI arrests early Saturday, city officials said.
Police identified the employees as Robin Jones, 50, a receptionist in the office of Council President Darrell L. Clarke, and Rodney Williams, 42.
Jones, driving a city-owned Chevy Cobalt with a suspended license, hit a sign and then a building in the Spring Garden section about 2:30 a.m., police said. She told police she swerved to avoid striking a biker before the accident.
Jones called Williams for help and he arrived at the scene of the accident in a city-owned Ford Explorer, police said. Police noticed that he was visibly intoxicated and he also was arrested for DUI, police spokeswoman Tanya Little said.
A sergeant-at-arms is a low-level patronage job whose function is to assist Council members and help maintain order during Council proceedings.
The vehicles were towed to a police lot, Little said.
The Cobalt and Explorer are part of the city fleet to be checked out to transport Council members or their aides to meetings around Philadelphia, city officials said.
Jane Roh, communications director for Clarke, said that it was a “flat-out unauthorized use of the cars,” and in a subsequent e-mail said the incidents could be “immediate grounds for firings.”
Clarke, in a statement, said the incidents, “if confirmed by the authorities, display a level of conduct and disregard for public safety that cannot be tolerated.”
Clarke said he would wait until the police investigation was completed before taking “appropriate action.”
While a sergeant-at-arms could be authorized to use a city-owned vehicle, a receptionist would have no reason to use one, Roh said. “You can’t just grab a key and take a city vehicle,” she said.
Use of city cars, including by Council members and other city officials, has been a periodic source of controversy in Philadelphia. Earlier this year, three freshman Council members rejected city-issue cars and said they would use their own vehicles.
City Controller Alan Butkovitz said Saturday that strict rules govern the use of city cars, partly for liability reasons.
“The city is self-insured and has an automobile-use policy that requires cars to be used on city business and only within the city confines,” Butkovitz said.
Butkovitz said that if news accounts of the incident were true, the city employees likely violated the policy.
“Needless to say, they shouldn’t be operating the city cars when they’re not on city business, and they shouldn’t be intoxicated when they’re operating city cars,” he said. “Thank God nobody was hurt.”
Clarke Quay (Photo credit: edwin.11)
Howard Jones @ Indigo (Photo credit: Bernt Rostad)