For a month now, Mayor Gabriel J. Campana's been driving around in a decommissioned city police car he claims is to deter crime and do research in preparation of a proposed rental ordinance impacting certain landlords and tenants.
It's not something two prior mayors have done and only Mayor Dan Kirby, who served from 1976 to 1979, used an unmarked vehicle for city business.
On Friday, several members of City Council said such use and expense should be included as a line item under the mayor's office in the budget.
Campana's office says he parked the vehicle on streets as a decoy to deter criminals and also used it to commute home. The car was on Louisa Street Friday, near Stevens School, where Campana taught before becoming mayor.
Campana denies using the cruiser - which has more than 100,000 miles on the odometer and its decals stripped off - for personal business.
"I was using it as a way to save taxpayer dollars," he said.
The only expense has been for gasoline, according to William E. Nichols Jr., city finance director. Nichols said the public safety director can use a city-owned car for official city business.
"We'll need to see it gets changed under a transfer or in the next budget year," said City Councilman Jonathan Williamson.
"I believe the city mayor's office needs some type of vehicle that represents us well whenever the mayor goes on trips such as a conference or as a representative of the municipal government," said Council President Bill Hall.
The transportation policy for city employees says they can't use city vehicles for personal reasons or to haul family.
"He can do that as public safety director," Hall said. "He could take the police chief's car if he wanted to. The mayor trying to justify his use of the vehicle as a 'bigger police presence' - that is a stretch."
"We've discussed as a council the possibility of the city providing an official vehicle for the mayor's office, whoever that mayor would be, that would give a respectable presentation for the mayor and for the city when conducting business in the city and on trips," said Councilman Randall J. Allison, of the public safety committee.
Two former city mayors said they never used city-owned cars.
"I always paid my expenses out of my own pocket because I didn't want the impression of double-dipping," said former Mayor Phil Preziosi, who served from 1992 to 1996. "My motto was, "Is it good for the city?'" Preziosi said.
The last mayor to have a car was Mayor Dan Kirby (1976-1979), according to Preziosi. "He had an unmarked police unit.
"I never had a car," said former Mayor Jessie Bloom, who served from 1988 to 1992. She indicated she would go with the individual from the specific department and most of the time in personal vehicles.
Under Bloom - as with any mayor since - certain city officials had cars provided to them.
Bloom said another consideration the city must think about are insurance costs.