Did Sheriff Benny Napoleon's use of a county vehicle and gas violate state law?

DETROIT (WXYZ) - Sheriff Benny Napoleon is making no apologies about a policy that pays for some officials gas to and from home. But in wake of a 7 Action News Investigation and a blistering audit, he says change may be coming.

"There are issues here, and you've given me something to think about," he told Channel 7's Ross Jones.

While defending the gas policy today, Napoleon also fended questions that his own vehicle and gas use may have violated state law.

An audit released today questioned why a slew of officials with administrative duties are racking up hundreds of dollars in gas bills. Napoleon said today that those expenses are warranted so his staff can be prepared to respond to an emergency.

"I know there are people who don't understand it, but I do.  This is what I've done for 40 years and we are going to be prepared to respond," Napoleon said.

For the first time, he responded to findings in our investigation about some of his own employees' vehicle use.  In August of last year, county lawyer James Spivey racked up nearly 4,000 miles worth of gas and billed it to you.

"Have you asked James Spivey what he was doing in August that racked up 4,000 miles?" Jones asked.

"I've had that conversation with him," Napoleon said.

"What was he doing?" Jones asked.

"I've had that conversation with him and he's going to explain that to me further," Napoleon said. "I'm absolutely concerned about that."

Still, the Sheriff defended paying for officials' gas, even if they're mostly using it to commute home.

"So if 364 days out of the year we're just paying for James Spivey to go to and from home, that's a justifiable expense to you?" Jones asked.

"We're not paying for him to go to and from home. We're paying for him to be prepared to respond to an emergency if it occurs. Again, it may never happen," Napoleon said.

The Sheriff insists he doesn't owe anyone an apology, but he may owe you a check.  When asked if he used his county vehicle and gas during his recent campaign for mayor, he said that he did.  But state law says using public resources like a vehicle for political purposes is outlawed.

"Is that proper to be using a county vehicle?" Jones asked.

"Absolutely, I'm still the sheriff.  I still have responsibilities to respond," he said.

"But you were campaigning," Jones said.

"Yes.  The President campaigned  and he used a plane…because he's still the President."

"Were you ever using county gas?" Jones asked.

"Of course.  I'm still the Sheriff.  I still did my job as the Sheriff, Ross," he said.

Contact Investigator Ross Jones at rjones@wxyz.com or at (248) 827-9466.

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