Target 11 Investigates $1,600 per month taxpayer funded SUV and chauffeur

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PITTSBURGH —

It’s a 2011 fully loaded Chevy Tahoe, complete with leather seats and a built in GPS unit.  It costs $1,600 a month to lease. 

Target 11 discovered that the sport utility vehicle belongs to a little known federal agency called the Federal Maritime Commission.  The agency overseas obscure shipping regulations. 

An internal audit obtained by Target 11 found that the commission wanted more “stature” in recent months.  So an agency executive decided to lease a “top of the line” vehicle. 

The agency apparently wanted the SUV so top executives could arrive at meeting in style, instead of having to take cabs or subways. 

"When it comes to vehicles or anything else, they want something cool and they'll do anything in their power to have it,” said David Williams of Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

The agency also disregarded government guidelines with the purchase.  Government cars are supposed to be fuel efficient, but the Tahoe only gets 15 miles per gallon. 

The internal audit also called the SUV purchase, “an appearance of waste.”  It blasted the agency’s failure to log every trip as a, “lapse in basic accountability required of a government agency.”

Some of the agency’s own employees who had just been given a pay freeze expressed concern about the the SUV lease.  The agency defended the SUV, claiming it needed a large truck to escort seven staff members at a time around town.

But Target 11 uncovered that at least 105 trips made with the SUV where to shuttle only agency chairman Richard Lidinksy from the headquarters to Washington D.C.’s main train station about three blocks away. 

The driver of the SUV was paid $75.00 per hour. 

“Three blocks for an SUV that seats eight people.   What an absolute waste of money.   The guy could buy a new pair of shoes and an umbrella if he's worried about weather,” said Williams.

With the assistance of our Bureau in Washington D.C. we tried to get answers form the chairman.  When our camera’s showed up at the commission’s public meeting we were forced out.

Our phone calls and e-mails were not returned.

But this is not the end of the investigation.  The House Oversight Committee is now demanding answers and a full accounting of the use of the SUV. 

According to documents just obtained by Target 11, the agency indicated it will reconsider the lease next year.