After a KSL viewer snapped a photo of aUtah taxpayer-owned vehicle parked near Disneyland earlier this year, the state fleet office identified the minivan as belonging to Utah Valley University (UVU).
In mid-April a UVU employee drove the vehicle to a conference in the Anaheim, Calif., area. The journey was in fact an approved business trip, but the employee failed to get permission to drive the van to and from Disneyland. In addition, family members traveled with the employee, and although he was supposed to obtain permission for this before driving to California, he did not do so. UVU has confirmed that the employee was disciplined for these actions.
So why did the employee drive a minivan to California instead of flying; after all, wouldn’t the cost of flying be significantly lower? According to Expedia.com, to travel from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles in April 2011 would have cost about $225 round trip, whereas actual gas purchased for the trip cost a total of $828.24 (see figures below). According to Mike Francis, associate vice president of finance/GRAMA at UVU, the employee had a fear of flying, so his supervisor felt it was appropriate to have the employee drive instead of fly.
Even so, wouldn’t it have made sense for the employee to drive a vehicle with better fuel efficiency than a van? As it turns out, vans make up the majority of UVU’s fleet. Chris Taylor, a spokesperson for UVU, said that the vehicle used would depend on what was reserved for other people on the date the employee left.
So how much did this three-day conference cost Utah taxpayers? We did some fact-checking and submitted a GRAMA request to UVU for the expenses, and here’s what we found out:
- Gas = $828.24
- Parking at conference = $11
- Meal allowance = $180
- Hotel at Marriott’s Newport Coast= $914.10
TOTAL COST = $1,933.34
Utah taxpayers spent nearly $2,000 to send a single employee to California for a three-day business conference.
In 2010, there were 7,301 state-owned vehicles on Utah roads. Does this make you wonder if anyone else might be abusing the system? If you see the driver of a state-owned vehicle doing something he or she shouldn’t, notify the state. You can use this website to file a complaint.