‘I was just curious’: Resident questions why Belleville city vehicle was in South St. Louis County

Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert in a 2013 file photo.
Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert in a 2013 file photo.

Chuck “Doc” Fugate of Belleville was surprised when he saw a Belleville Parks & Recreation truck outside a doctor’s office in South St. Louis County last month.

“I was just curious why a city truck was there in South County,” Fugate said.

Mayor Mark Eckert said the city employee was directed to get a second opinion in a workers’ compensation injury case and was allowed to drive the city truck while on duty to a doctor’s appointment.

But the questions Fugate raised prompted Eckert to direct city officials to no longer allow employees to take a city-owned vehicle to workers’ comp appointments outside the city. Now, city employees must take their own vehicle and can request reimbursement for their mileage.

“It does make sense to re-evaluate it and we’re going to change the policy,” Eckert said.

Eckert said in previous years employees had driven city vehicles to out of town appointments.

“It doesn’t happen often,” said Eckert, who did not know this employee had gone to South County. “That practice will no longer be honored.”

The employee’s name was not released.

Fugate, who earned his nickname while serving as a physician assistant in the Navy, wrote a letter to the editor to the News-Democrat about the city employee he saw. “Was he on the clock, did he pay for the fuel and maintenance?” he asked in his letter.

Fugate said he is glad to hear the city changed its policy.

“I don’t know of any other company or any other private enterprise that would provide a vehicle for one their employees … to make a doctor’s appointment regardless of whether it was an on-the-job injury or whether or not it was a personal appointment.”

Other cities

Walton Denton, city administrator for O’Fallon, said O’Fallon employees are required to use their own vehicle for workers’ comp cases for routine appointments but are allowed to take a city vehicle if they need immediate medical care.

Shiloh Village Administrator John Marquart said his town’s employees are allowed to use village vehicles for workers’ comp appointments.

Who drives home Belleville cars?

In Belleville, the mayor, police chief, detectives, command officers, fire chief and his two top assistants, two wastewater treatment managers and the city engineer are allowed to take home city-owned vehicles.

Eckert said some contracts allow employees to live outside the city but these employees, if they have a job that would allow them to take a car home, are not allowed to take public vehicles home.

Eckert said it makes sense to allow some city officials to take cars home because they often need to respond to an emergency during off-hours.