Report: Highway Patrol officer incurs $9,400 in excess fuel cost from unauthorized commuting

Report: Highway Patrol officer incurs $9,400 in excess fuel cost from unauthorized commuting

ELIZABETHTOWN, NC (WECT) - Investigators with the Office of the State Auditor determined an administrative First Sergeant for the State Highway Patrol incurred more than $9,400 in excess fuel and maintenance costs by living in Elizabethtown and commuting to his duty station in downtown Raleigh without proper approval.

According to the investigative report, the unidentified First Sergeant, who works in the Inspections and Compliance Unit, used his Highway Patrol vehicle for the approximately 89-mile one-way commute from Elizabethtown to Raleigh on an almost daily basis from January 2015 to December 2015.

In 2014, he requested to live in Johnston County, which was approved, but admitted to investigators he did not get approval for his residence in Elizabethtown. By commuting from Elizabethtown rather than his approved residence, he drove an additional 16,426 miles in 2015. His total mileage for the year was 34,282.

The State Highway Patrol residence policy states members have to live in the county of their assigned duty station, or reside in an approved location within 20 miles from the county line of their assigned duty station. It also says those wishing to live outside their county of assignment must submit a request.

When asked if he knew the State Highway Patrol's residence policy, he said, "oh, absolutely. It's one of those things that if I ask you about it, you're going to tell me 'no,'… but it's not checked into."

The First Sergeant's supervisor at some point became aware of his commuting, and admitted knowing that the First Sergeant violated policy, according to the report.

"I knew that he was going back and forth from time to time…," the supervisor told investigators.

Frank Perry, secretary for the NC Department of Public Safety, responded to the report by saying he directed the Highway Patrol to conduct an internal investigation on the affected employee(s), and take appropriate disciplinary action, which could include having the First Sergeant reimburse $9,444.95 - the exact amount determined to have been inappropriately spent - to the state.

Perry also said he asked them to conduct a cost and feasibility study on the use of GPS technology on all Highway Patrol vehicles, and ensure all members are in compliance with current residency policy.

State Highway Patrol released the following statement in response to the report.

The Highway Patrol is in the process of conducting an internal investigation following a report by the State's Auditor's office. The allegations identified in the report will be handled appropriately.

The identities of those in the report are not being released per the State Personnel Act.

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