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Treasurer Ron Crane’s gas card use scrutinized

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Bryan Taylor

Posted: Wednesday, January 4, 2012 12:32 am | Updated: 11:55 am, Sun Jan 8, 2012.

BOISE — A southwestern Idaho prosecutor is scrutinizing whether state Treasurer Ron Crane broke the law by using a state credit card to fuel up a personal vehicle he drives to and from the Capitol, and on short excursions to grocery stores or church.

Canyon County prosecutor Bryan Taylor confirmed that Idaho Legislative Services auditors who have been reviewing the financial records of Crane’s office for months have forwarded their preliminary findings to him.

“They’ve asked us to see if any criminal offense took place within Canyon County’s jurisdiction,” Taylor said. “We’re fairly early into that investigation.”

Legislative Service audits division manager Don Berg declined comment, saying he’s awaiting Taylor’s conclusions before releasing the audit of Crane’s office.

The audit is conducted at least once every three years, by state law.

Crane claims he’s saving the state money by using a personal car. However, he doesn’t keep a detailed record or logbook to show everywhere he drove using gas paid for by taxpayers.

Crane has hired attorney David Leroy, a former Idaho attorney general, to represent him after auditors alerted current Attorney General Lawrence Wasden’s office about concerns that Crane’s activities may have broken the law.

“As a former prosecutor, I can state that these kinds of policy and practice review questions are occasionally presented to public council for review,” Leroy said Tuesday. “I would anticipate that the Canyon County prosecutor will conclude this involves questions of public policy and that no finding of criminal conduct will be made.”

Leroy contends that Crane — as an elected official and not just a state employee — has the discretion to make decisions about the most-efficient and cost-effective means of organizing his official travel.

According to Idaho government policy, use of state vehicles for personal business is strictly prohibited. While personal vehicles may be used for official business in some situations, state policy indicates the cost of travel should be reimbursed at a state-approved rate — currently 45.5 cents per mile — with the mileage computed according to approved state or national maps.

Crane didn’t turn in mileage reimbursements, instead using his state card to buy fuel.

The bill for Crane’s state Chevron card over the last three years totaled about $6,900, according to documents obtained through a public records request.

The bill was about $2,030 in 2009, $2,875 in 2010 and $1,980 for the first nine months of 2011.

In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Crane said he’s used a state Chevron card with a $1,500 spending limit to fill up his own car since February 2005, when he gave up a state-provided vehicle in a bid to save Idaho taxpayers money.

Crane said he only uses gasoline paid for by Idaho taxpayers for commuting to the Capitol, as well as for other official business. Personal travel, he said, is paid out of his own pocketbook.

Crane, a four-term Republican, lives in Nampa, 25 miles from the Capitol. He considers driving to and from work state business, he said. For stops along the way, including at the grocery store, he doesn’t differentiate between state or personal business.

“Or if I’m just in the city of Nampa, with incidental running to the post office, or to church, or something like that, I don’t delineate,” Crane told the AP in November. “But, if I take a trip to Cascade, because we have a (vacation) place in Cascade, I’ve used my personal card to fill that up. If I drive to Lewiston to see my daughter, I put that on my personal card. I can demonstrate that with financial records. That’s the way I’ve done it for the entire time” since selling the state car in 2005.

Crane contends that giving up the state car provided to the treasurer, then filling up his own car with the state Chevron card, has saved Idaho taxpayers roughly $32,500 over six years in leasing and maintenance costs. That’s why Crane said he was taken aback when he learned auditors had reported concerns to the Idaho attorney general.

“I was dumbfounded, to be quite honest,” Crane said, adding only on one occasion did somebody else fill up the vehicle using the state card — when his wife retrieved him from the Boise Airport as he returned from official business.

A review of other Idaho state elected officials’ commuting patterns shows differences.

Wasden commutes in a state-provided car from Nampa and pays for fuel with a state credit card, much like Crane did before 2005.

Gov. Butch Otter drives a personal vehicle to and from the Capitol “80 percent of the time” and pays for his own fuel, his office said. His Idaho State Patrol detail sometimes picks him up at his home in Star and brings him to official events, Otter spokesman Jon Hanian said.

For their commutes, Lt. Gov. Brad Little and Secretary of State Ben Ysursa say they pay for their own fuel in personal cars.

Controller Donna Jones drives her own vehicle back and forth from Payette, about 120 miles roundtrip. Her office said she doesn’t claim mileage.

© 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Welcome to the discussion.

10 comments:

  • Scott_Nicholson posted at 12:26 pm on Sat, Jan 7, 2012.

    Scott_Nicholson Posts: 21

    I also agree that travel policy should be consistent with IRS rules. Local commuting is not deductible. Why are we paying for the local commuting expenses of politicians.

    I also hope you all saw that their travel expenses were added to their base salary for determining their retirement income. Do you understand the implications? They're feathering their own beds.

     
  • Scott_Nicholson posted at 12:23 pm on Sat, Jan 7, 2012.

    Scott_Nicholson Posts: 21

    Politicians are incapable of policing their own. There is always some favor / vote swapping going on. We need an independent citizen review committee. I laughed when Crane suggested to change the travel policy so spouses have to pay for the incremental cost of travel. duh, there won't be any Ron... you or the politician who's favor you are after will reserve the limo & there is no incremental cost for the 2nd occupant or in the suite instead of the single tax payer bed they should have reserved. Politicians more than any other group knows how to get around rules or policies. They're swimming in their own filth and are incapable of policing their own.

     
  • Sawtooth46 posted at 9:04 pm on Wed, Jan 4, 2012.

    Sawtooth46 Posts: 911

    I guess the question is whether Mr. Crane's christian testimony should perceive that driving to and from work is considered part of his job. I believe the average Idaho tax payer thinks work begins when you arrive on work premises. In other words, Mr. Crain thinks his position is so important that the State of Idaho is required to get him to and from work at our expense. Now, take that attitude one step further and you can see how riding in limos in New York is justified not only for him but for his freeloading family. Oh, but that is now an oversight...........because he got caught. Maybe Otter should take his cabinet off on a rules and ethics retreat and get on the same page.

     
  • posted at 11:55 am on Wed, Jan 4, 2012.

    Posts:

    rcjava sez : "What is good for one should be enough for another. I personally know Ron Crane and my opinion is that Ron WOULD NOT do anything that would jeapordize his Christian testimony."

    a)So two wrongs make a right? What would Jesus say about that?

    b)His "Christian testimony" is worthless. Just as yours is. See above.

    c)Crane is another arrogant Idaho politician that does what he wants with our money.

     
  • rp1020 posted at 10:43 am on Wed, Jan 4, 2012.

    rp1020 Posts: 36

    Ron Crane: criminal or just a typical politician? My neighbor is a US Marine. He commutes to his current duty station, Boise’s Gowen Field, in his private vehicle and at his own expense. What makes Ron Crane feel he should receive better fiscal treatment than one of our US Marines? It’s likely that the answer has something to do with GREED at taxpayer’s expense.

     
  • Paul posted at 9:38 am on Wed, Jan 4, 2012.

    Paul Posts: 360

    I would like to see a citizen review committee review perks and other things downloaded to taxpayers at all levels of govt. Mayor Nancolas in Caldwell gets a $9,000.00/yr car allownace as Mayor of Caldwell. Contrast that with Mayor Bieter of Boise who gets nothing. Taxpayers are owed a transparent review of this starting with the Idaho Legislature down to the local county and city levels.

    Just because it is legal doesn't mean it smells good to taxpayers.

     
  • rcjava67 posted at 9:23 am on Wed, Jan 4, 2012.

    rcjava67 Posts: 59

    Why is this such an issue when just a few months ago Magee was spending our tax dollars for accomodations in Boise instead of staying with a family member? What is good for one should be enough for another. I personally know Ron Crane and my opinion is that Ron WOULD NOT do anything that would jeapordize his Christian testimony. Why don't you do some serious checking on others in the State Government and see what their expenditures are and for what.

     
  • idahocrystal posted at 7:41 am on Wed, Jan 4, 2012.

    idahocrystal Posts: 31

    @Hubert is exactly right - State employees, elected or not, must cover the cost of their own local commute. The feds have this nailed down and defined. As a previous state employee commuting daily from Nampa to Boise over the course of several years, there wasn't a single time that anyone offered to pay me to get to work or drive home or run small errands and "P-Cards" were never to be used for anything even remotely personal. The way "personal" was related to employees as 'anything the public or media might construe as controversial.'

     
  • mrwizard posted at 7:18 am on Wed, Jan 4, 2012.

    mrwizard Posts: 97

    Please check the facts before printing stories like this. Ron Crane is a "yes man" who does what his Republican handlers tell him to do--no thinking required. Therefore, neither the laws of Idaho nor simple ethical standards apply to him.

    Just be thankful he does not use a limousine to haul his briefcase and groceries at taxpayer expense.

     
  • Hubert posted at 5:58 am on Wed, Jan 4, 2012.

    Hubert Posts: 521

    Mr. Crane is probably correct that he has saved money by not using a state owned vehicle and only charging for gas. This really obscures the issue. Should the taxpayers be paying for any state, county or city employees commute to work.?

     
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