Murrysville councilman wants authority to review use of vehicle

| Wednesday, July 16, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

A Murrysville councilman is asking the Franklin Township Municipal Sanitary Authority to examine its manager's personal use of an authority-owned sport utility vehicle, and the board's chairman says a policy might be necessary.

Authority manager Jim Brucker acknowledges he drives the 2006 Jeep Commander more than 500 miles to the Outer Banks of North Carolina for yearly vacations but claims the authority approved such usage.

“I've been doing this for years,” said Brucker, 65, of New Kensington. “My board is very aware of that. That's the benefit they gave me.”

Brucker, hired in 1972, does not have an employment contract. His 2013 salary was about $127,000, payroll records show.

Councilman Jeff Kepler, the council's liaison to the authority, objects to Brucker's use of the sport utility vehicle for personal purposes.

“Those actions are unacceptable,” Kepler said. “I hope that the board of directors investigates it and takes appropriate action.”

Brucker went to Bodie Island in May and in April 2013 in the Jeep, records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request to the U.S. National Park Service show. He obtained an off-road vehicle permit last year to drive the Jeep on the beach from April 28 to May 4. This year's permit ran from May 10-16.

To Murrysville resident Michele Clarke, such behavior shows disregard for residents he serves.

“My feeling is that this is one more example of wasted money,” Clarke said.

The authority's board chairman, Mark Adamchik, said the authority gave Brucker permission to take the vehicle home because he reports to alarms and outages that might occur overnight. The board has no policy governing use of its 10 vehicles, he said.

“I'm not aware of any personal use or authorization,” Adamchik said, though he acknowledged that Brucker's SUV usage “has been going on a long time, long before I came here. I'm not sure if there were any limitations or restrictions placed on it.”

Adamchik, who joined the board five years ago and became chairman last year, said the board should set clear expectations for any personal use of an authority vehicle.

“We may explore (personal vehicle use) down the road, to see if limitations need to be put on that,” Adamchik said.

Brucker said he responds to after-hours calls, such as when a pipe bursts or a sewage overflow occurs. As a salaried employee, he is not paid overtime. He evaluates breaks or overflows to decide whether to call out a crew for repairs.

Other authority employees use the Jeep during business hours, Brucker said.

The Jeep has about 129,000 miles on it. Brucker estimates that he drives it 15,000 to 20,000 miles each year, but said he doesn't keep track of personal mileage. The Outer Banks, popular islands for beach vacations, are about 530 miles from Murrysville, where the authority's offices are located on Meadowbrook Road.

Brucker said he has taken an authority vehicle on vacation for 30 to 35 years. He is the only employee with vehicle take-home privilege.

The authority oversees 333 miles of sewer lines serving 8,823 customers in Murrysville, Export, Delmont and Salem, and portions of Penn Township, Monroeville and Plum. Murrysville Council appoints board members to five-year terms, although the authority is autonomous and manages a $4.5 million yearly budget.

This year the authority budgeted $35,000 to replace Brucker's Jeep. It delayed replacement last year because of a series of costly sewage repairs.

Authority members Jim Hamilton, Chad Carrick and Vincent Valari did not respond to messages seeking comment. Board member Allan Sarver could not be reached.

Though it could not comment on Brucker's vehicle use, the Pennsylvania Ethics Commission in a 2005 opinion noted the state Ethics Act generally prohibits using government staff, time, equipment, facilities or property for non-governmental purposes.

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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