Chandler Mayor Boyd Dunn typically has a close eye on the pulse of his community. So it was quite a surprise to learn Dunn has accepted a city-purchased, brand-new car packed with extra features as Chandler stares at potential $19 million deficit that could prompt employee wage freezes and new fees for residents.
Tribune writer Gary Grado reported Saturday that Dunn received in October a 2009 Toyota Camry hybrid for $32,350. Apparently driven off a showroom floor, the Camry replaced a 2004 Chevrolet Malibu that Dunn previously used as part of his official compensation.
Buying a new car seems rather out of touch given the yearlong headlines of a national recession that had to affect Chandler’s tax revenues at some point. Dunn and other city officials told Grado the Malibu had to go because of rising maintenance expenses. But that car only had 69,000 miles on it and hasn’t been retired or sold, but placed in the city vehicle fleet, Grado reported. This sends an elitist message that the Malibu is still cost-effective for most city employees to drive, but it’s just not good enough for the mayor.
As for the Camry, the growing popularity of “green” life choices might allow Dunn to justify the extra expense of selecting a gas-electric hybrid instead of a traditional model. But there’s simply no good explanation for compelling city taxpayers to foot the bill for $5,000 in unnecessary options including leather-trimmed seats, a moon roof and a satellite radio kit. These items cast an image of convenient luxury, not of a professional vehicle used for public business.
Chandler probably couldn’t get back all of the money spent on the hybrid if Dunn returned it now. But the mayor could demonstrate he’s learned a lesson in being a public servant if he reimbursed the city for options that any car dealer should be ashamed to install in a taxpayer-funded vehicle in the first place.