You are on Let’s Make a Deal!
By Frank Bonet
You get a truck, you get a truck, and you get a truck. It seems that Interim Mayor Kendrys Vasquez has time to buy new trucks for some of his closest and cherished friends, and even taking some away from DPW to give to other departments. So much for the capital budget!
Interim Mayor Vasquez purchased a new vehicle for himself, from the Department of Works budget. Another new vehicle was purchased for the Acting DPW Director Franklin Miguel (you know, Mayor Vasquez’s family member), and numerous other new vehicles have been purchased. As you may know, DPW Miguel has endorsed Interim Mayor Vasquez.
Additionally, the City’s IT Director has been given another new city vehicle, from the DPW budget. As many of you know, IT Director Luis Santiago has also endorsed Interim Mayor Vasquez.
To outdo himself, Interim Mayor Vasquez has given the Department of Health & Human Services Director a new vehicle as well, from the DPW budget. As you may know, Director Martha Velez has been seen in several Interim Mayor Vasquez campaign fundraising events.
The connection is that if your endorse Interim Mayor Vasquez, he will give you a brand new vehicle for your department. What is more intriguing is that most, if not all of these new vehicles are take-home vehicles. This means that all of these department heads can fill the tank, full of fuel, at the DPW Yard as well and drive home.
A public records request is in place to determine if Cares Act, or American Recovery Acts, funds were used to purchase these new vehicles. Additionally, the request also will inquire on whether Chief Administrator Mark Ianello and/or Payroll Director Donna Cole, have been reporting these taxable incidents to the Internal Revenue Services for each of these department heads.
Many individuals, and many municipal governments, do not report these taxable incidents. The specific areas of IRS concern have been in four major areas: personal use of employer-provided vehicles, cell phones, clothing allowances, and meal reimbursements.
For employees with take-home vehicles, the commuting benefit is taxable income and must be reported to the IRS. The easiest way to do this is by establishing a daily benefit amount (IRS currently allows for $3.00-$4.00 per day) and reporting it as taxable income on the employee’s Form W-2. For elected officials with a government-owned vehicle, the IRS requires a calculation using the leased value of the vehicle and a statement of the percentage of total vehicle usage that is personal. This must also be reported as taxable income on the employee’s W-2. If these employees use the vehicles for personal use (which may have had, and continue to use for personal use while they are off the worksite) additional tax calculations apply.
Concerns for city residents is that government funds are being used to buy the new vehicles, or used to lease the vehicles when an argument about raising taxes, above the 2.5% maximum for FY23, is ongoing in the Lawrence community.
DPW desperately needs new vehicles. Instead, new vehicles were taken away from DPW and handed over to the Health & Human Services Center, this administration (as well as any new administrations) should look at the priorities that they are conveying to its public and its employees. Every other department needing new vehicles, such as Fire and Police, has to make their new vehicle requested added to the City’s Capital Plan, which is also created and monitored by Acting DPW Franklin Miguel.