After DUIs, Philadelphia City Council locking up the car keys

Two Philadelphia Council staffers got fired Monday for allegedly driving drunk in two city-owned vehicles. Even if they were sober, they were not supposed to be driving city cars.

On Saturday morning, police say Philadelphia City Council receptionist Robin Jones crashed into a Center City building in the city’s 2008 Chevy Cobalt. Officers say, she then called her colleague Rodney Williams, a sergeant-at-arms for Council, who arrived at the scene in a city-owned 1997 Ford Explorer.

Both employees, who did not have authorization to use the vehicles at the time, were charged with driving under the influence. Council President Darrell Clarke says the city’s vehicle-use policy is not to blame.

“At the end of the day, if a policy is in place, and the rules and regulations are in place, if somebody decides not to follow them and to go unauthorized and take the keys to the car, it doesn’t matter what that policy is,” said Clarke.

Previously, the cars’ keys were available in an unlocked drawer. Clarke says he’s changing that.

“The keys will be locked up,” said Clarke. “They will be accessible to one individual, and that’s the change that we will put in place.”

Under Council’s existing policy, an employee must make a written request to use a city-owned vehicle and receive approval from a senior official. On Friday, the staffer usually responsible for holding onto the keys was out of the office, so Clarke says Williams, one of the two arrested, was apparently put in charge.

City Controller Alan Butkovitz says that as a result of the alleged incident, he is now investigating the use of city cars.

“Who in the city government has cars assigned to them?” asked Butkovitz. “Who in the city has access to city cars and what controls — for example, sign-out and documentation procedures — are in place?”

Council has 15 cars in its fleet. A Council spokeswoman says 57 employees are authorized to drive them. 

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.