Readers Respond to ‘Chickens and Squad Cars’ (Dec. 2002)
Editor’s Note: The following e-mails have been submitted in response to the December 2002 column Frisch Findings, “Chickens and Squad Cars.”
I read your column on the donations of squad cars. The City of Park Ridge, IL, has accepted donations from non-profit community groups for such things as a D.A.R.E. vehicle for the police department and an underwater recovery vehicle for the fire department. Beyond that, I think it would be inappropriate to accept donated operational vehicles—and never from vendors.
Bob Kaderabek, Purchasing Agent, City of Park Ridge, IL, email@example.com
Like most colleges and universities, we accept donations. Accepting a brand new squad car for campus security would not be different from accepting donations to buy the car, accepting a refrigerator for the biology lab, or even accepting a low bid of $0.
If there are “strings” attached, they would be looked at, but so long as we were able to offer a similar deal to others, I think we would accept the cars.
Dave Logan, Director of Purchasing The Community College of Baltimore County, Baltimore, MD, firstname.lastname@example.org
I read your editorial with interest. The subject has come up in Denton County (TX) about the legitimacy of such a proposition. I am very interested in what your readers have to say about the subject or any additional information you might have on the subject. Any information you could forward to my attention would be helpful.
Beth Fleming, C.P.M., Director of Purchasing, Denton County, TX, email@example.com
In Texas, it is considered a breach of ethics for a public official/employee to accept donations or gifts when the value exceeds $5 or $10. I make it a practice when vendors are handing out “gratuities”, such as, cups, ball caps, pens, etc., that my entire office gets in on the good fortune, or I don’t accept the freebies at all.
It just doesn’t sit well with me, and I’d never recommend a governmental entity accept such a donation.
We are public employees, and accepting large donations like vehicles sets you up for all sorts of trouble. It pretty much comes right back to, “Well, I gave you those vehicles, how about pushing a bid award my direction?” I’d never accept large donations myself, but that’s just me.
Stephan Dueboay, Purchasing Manager, City of Midlothian, TX, firstname.lastname@example.org
In your editorial, you asked whether any entities had accepted vehicle donations. Many years ago (early 80s), when I was Purchasing Supervisor for the City of Galveston, TX, we had such a donor. In that case, it was the Moody Foundation, and the vehicles given to the city were fire trucks. The foundation donated two when I was there, and may have donated more since. There were apparently no “strings” attached. They did not overtly demand any special considerations regarding zoning, etc.
I know in the case of one such vehicle, a 175-ft. ladder truck, they wanted it available for possible fires in their 15-story building. In that case, they were also protecting their interests, and this corresponded to a boon for the city. The other fire truck was a standard pumper to be used at a new fire station, again with no strings attached.
Such community-spirited donations can be a good thing. Any city must be aware that such gifts may be given with the idea of future considerations, whether stated at the time or not. I would be wary of a for-profit company who suddenly decided to donate vehicles. Unfortunately, they may desire more than the entity would ordinarily be willing to give, and the acceptance of the gift may make the political entity vulnerable to pressure.
By the way, I, too, enjoy “News of the Weird.”
Robert S. Sparkman (Bob) Purchasing Agent, City of The Colony, TX, rsparkman@ci. the-colony.tx.us