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City Director Receiving Car Allowance for City-Owned Car, Too

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Mayor L. Douglas Wilder isn't the only city employee receiving both a vehicle allowance and a city-owned car.

The city adds a stipend to the salary of Benjamin Johnson, director for the office of emergency management, to offset wear-and-tear his personal car sustains during business use, despite the fact that he drives a city-owned vehicle, says City Auditor Umesh Dalal in a letter April 10 to Chief Administrative Officer Sheila Hill-Christian.

Dalal's office found that Johnson was assigned a city car in late November 2003, then started receiving an additional auto allowance of $500 a month in July 2005. The stipend has netted Johnson roughly $17,000 since he began receiving it.

Hill-Christian asked Johnson to return the car April 8, according to a city official with knowledge of the matter.

"Using the city vehicle while receiving an auto allowance appears to be a dishonest action that caused the city financial loss to the extent of use and maintenance cost for the vehicle," Dalal writes. "A disciplinary action for said dishonesty needs to be taken."

Wilder receives $8,400 annually in car money, but is chauffeured in a maroon, city-owned Mercury Grand Marquis. "It's a big one," says his spokesman, Linwood Norman. He says the mayor was unaware of the bonus and will ask that it be taken out of the next budget.

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