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County vehicle use policy to ban employee smoking?

Posted: February 18, 2011 4:16 p.m.
Updated: February 21, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Does Kershaw County have the authority to tell its employees not to smoke while driving in county vehicles?

That question came up du­­­­­ring Thursday’s Kershaw County Council first-ever work session -- meetings implemented at the recommendation of interim administrator Frank Broom, which will be held on the first and third Thursdays of the month.

Since no official action can be taken at the work sessions, no votes were taken on the employee-smoking question, but staff said they would continue to tinker with the proposal before bringing it back during an official council meeting. An updated draft Friday clearly stated that smoking would be “prohibited in any county-owned vehicles.”

The matter stemmed from assistant administrator Allen Trapp’s policy for county vehicles, which came after Councilman Jimmy Jones asked staff to look into creating a vehicle-use policy several months ago.

During Trapp’s presentation Thursday, Councilman Bobby Gary asked staff whether there was anything in the policy disallowing smoking in county-owned vehicles.

Thursday’s proposal didn’t include the banning of smoking in county vehicles, Broom said, but staff could look at inserting language to that effect into the policy.

County Attorney Ken Dubose said he believed it was within the county’s rights to prohibit smoking in the vehicles, since they are owned by the county.

Chairman Gene Wise voiced his support of the measure to ban smoking in county vehicles.

“It’s a bigger issue than just someone wanting to have a smoke,” Wise said. “We’re funding their insurance, it’s a wellness issue. And I don’t think we should do anything to encourage anybody to smoke. It’s a health hazard.”

Councilman Sammie Tucker, however, was reluctant to support inserting a policy banning smoking in county vehicles, expressing concerns about the employees’ productivity.

Tucker said if employees make the decision to smoke and harm themselves, then he’d rather them be smoking out on the road in the vehicles than standing on the site of the road and not being productive.

Councilman C.R. Miles -- who said he wasn’t a smoker, as did Tucker -- also said he wasn’t in favor of prohibiting employees from smoking.

Beyond the smoking question, Broom said the focal points of the vehicle-use policy will be that all county vehicles -- with the exception of sheriff deputies’ cars -- will be marked with a number and a decal, and that no vehicles are to be driven home outside the county.

“A lot of times citizens see public vehicles operated improperly, but can’t get the license plates,” said Broom, who added that labeling the vehicles will help that.

And it will be up to the county administrator to determine which employees are granted “take-home vehicles,” Trapp said.

“At no time will ‘take-home vehicles’ be granted to any employee residing outside or commuting outside the county,” the proposed policy states.

The policy also deals with employees working to conserve fuel, accident procedures and vehicle damage reimbursement.

In late 2010, Jones asked that the county adopt a vehicle-use policy because he claimed a number of employees were driving county-owned cars and trucks over county lines.

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