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Posted on Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 5:58 a.m.

Ann Arbor spending $48K per year on vehicle allowances for city employees

By Ryan J. Stanton

The city of Ann Arbor has 16 employees who receive monthly vehicle allowances that cost city taxpayers more than $48,000 a year combined, city records show. received a report on those allowances this week in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, showing they range from $200 to $375 a month.

Here's a list of all 16 city employees and the monthly worth of their allowances:

  • Colin Smith, parks and recreation manager — $200
  • Jeff Straw, parks and recreation deputy manager — $200
  • Ralph Welton, chief development officer — $150
  • Susan Pollay, DDA executive director — $315.63
  • Annette Weber, city assessor's office — $200
  • Michael Courtney, city assessor's office — $200
  • David Petrak, city assessor's office — $200
  • Amy Balogh, city assessor's office — $200
  • Ryan Doletzky, city assessor's office — $200
  • Patricia Forner, city assessor's office — $200
  • Matt Warba, acting field operations manager — $300
  • Dennis Crum, fleet and facilities supervisor — $300
  • Matt Kulhanek, fleet and facilities manager — $300
  • Earl Kenzie, wastewater treatment manager — $300
  • Ellen Taylor, assistant fire chief — $375
  • Greg Bazick, deputy police chief — $375

Monthly total: $4,015.63

The city has moved away from offering vehicle allowances as cash perks to top administrators. For instance, the city administrator and city attorney no longer receive them.

However, city leaders maintain vehicle allowances are an administratively efficient way to reimburse certain employees who do a lot of driving on the job — without making them keep track of every mile they drive and fill out lengthy mileage reimbursement forms every month.

But an auditor raised concerns recently that the city is letting employees with vehicle allowances still claim mileage reimbursements for out-of-town trips. has another FOIA request pending with the city for records showing which employees have city-provided vehicles they are able to take home and commute to and from work with.

The city's expenses related to vehicle allowances have decreased considerably in the last few years, going from $88,208 in 2010 to $85,160 in 2011 to $79,788 in 2012, and now about $48,000. A number of employees have dropped off the vehicle allowance list, including the city administrator, city attorney, police chief, fire chief, service area administrators and more.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.



Sun, Feb 3, 2013 : 8:54 a.m.

Why should any of these City staff be recovering vehicle allowances? They are all in departments that should already have access to their own City vehicles. It is an outdated perk that obscures the true salaries of these staff.


Sat, Feb 2, 2013 : 3:49 a.m.

Let's get their travel logs as to how often they leave the office on city business which would justify the use of a taxpayer paid car allowance. If they get a car allownace just to drive from home to the office, I have a problem with that. If they leave the office on a daily basis, then a car allowance should exist. Less travel requiored then mileage for their own vehicle would apply. The fact that an established and "progressive" city like ann Arbor would not have an established car alloowance policy should be disturbing to every property owner who pays for "competaence and expertise" in our city policy makers and officials. Lets start acting like professionals.


Fri, Feb 1, 2013 : 4:54 p.m.

re@craig... "So Ellen Taylor, assistant fire chief — $375 drives her own car in her duties for the fire department? what sorts of things does she do outside the office?.. Why don't you pose the same question about the Assistant Police Chief? Unlike many jobs, I'll bet BOTH Assistant Chiefs' days don't end when they clock out and go home. Considering the fires in A2 and surrounding areas in the past month or so, the Assistant Chief has more than likely been needed in some capacity. Makes sense to me for her to be compensated for the use of her vehicle.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 10:30 p.m.

The IRS allowance of .55 cents includes gas, oil, insurance, depreciation, and etc. I agree, its interesting that the city allows a combination of a flat monthly amount for a vehicle allowance AND at times allowing the same employees to expense mileage on longer trips. Who defines what a longer trip is? This is to arbitrary and increases the opportunity for intentional minupaltion or honest mistakes. Pick one way to reimburse employees for their expenses, if they are not affored a city vehicle. If they have city vehicle, they should be able to expense nada.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 10:08 p.m.

My second comment has disappeared - it revealed's removal of my first email which gave links to the most recent two articles, both related to this Stanton article. When information is shut out by a major media source, we have reason to be more than concerned. Media can be more dangerous than governement when it comes to propaganda, slanted coverage, etc. How can citizens know what's going on in gov. when media hides info?


Fri, Feb 1, 2013 : 12:34 p.m.

I find this incredulous that there has been no explanation of why 2 comments of mine were removed. Again, the first gave links to 2 recent articles relevant to this discussion; the second alerted that the first had been removed.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 11:58 p.m.

Why? Because they can. Rings of big brother and selective censorship. Go figure!


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 11:09 p.m.

Ryan or someone at I think there are many of us that would like an explanation for the censorship of previous comments today by Cindy1. If her statements are true, she did nothing to merit the action by I have seen other situations like this in the past - - and have wondered about it. Please let us know the reason so that we can be assured that your censors act in a fair and equitable manner. And, exactly who are the censors? How many staffers have the ability to reject/delete colmments ? Thank you.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 10:28 p.m.

Cindy1... This is OZ ..the daily blurb only writes what the sheeple living under the dome can handle and reality is not part of that....


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 9:01 p.m.

Susan Pollay should definitely be riding the bus; that's what she wants everyone to be doing in the dense/don't need parking housing downtown area.

Tom Whitaker

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 7:35 p.m.

Not on the list is Michael Ford, the head of AATA. Last I heard, he was receiving a $10,000 annual private vehicle allowance on top of a sizable salary. Ironic considering his job is to manage and promote public transportation in the city. SPARK also hands out sizable vehicle allowances to its highly paid executives. Not part of the City, but they do receive subsidies from Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and County tax revenues, as well as enormous amounts of cash from the State of Michigan. With one possible exception, the list in the article seems to include those who justifiably need to use their car in the performance of their duties. Why we pay commuting allowances to people whose job it is to promote economic growth and development in the city is beyond me.

say it plain

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 6:25 p.m.


Ryan J. Stanton

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 5:45 p.m.

FYI - The city employees who receive vehicle allowances use their personal vehicles. They do not also have a city-assigned vehicle.


Fri, Feb 1, 2013 : 2:06 a.m.

Right, because that/those individual(s) got busted.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 7:03 p.m.

Sad that you actually have to explain that to your readers.

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 6:33 p.m.

So Ellen Taylor, assistant fire chief — $375 drives her own car in her duties for the fire department? what sorts of things does she do outside the office?

Basic Bob

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 5:02 p.m.

I'm still curious about the tax treatment of these vehicle allowances. Is this taxable income to the employee - effectively giving these folks a bonus in exchange for not turning in their mileage? Or is it considered tax-free expense reimbursement for miles driven during the work day?

Ryan J. Stanton

Fri, Feb 1, 2013 : 2:09 a.m.

It is considered taxable income, but I know many of these employees have jobs that entail a fair amount of driving so I don't know if "bonus" is a fair blanket term to use here.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 3:49 p.m.

How about the ones that take vehicles home and use them for everything beyond work related travels? Do they have a monthly mileage limit or fuel limit? How are these members controlled or kept tabs on? Or is it the just do as I want attitude until I get caught? Even then the City will cover it up somehow.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 7:04 p.m.

That has nothing to do with reimbursement for using their own vehicles. Different story.

Jack Eaton

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 3:45 p.m.

This article notes that City employees currently receiving vehicle allowances will cost the City $48,000 this year. While it is reasonable to question why some of these individuals are receiving this benefit, we should also note that this total cost is substantially less than the City paid in vehicle allowances last year. According to information provided to A2Politico, the City paid $79,787 in vehicle allowances last year. That information is on the last page of a document A2P linked to in a recent article: I cannot understand why the City provides a vehicle allowance for the Director of the DDA. That entity has separate sources of revenue, a separate budget and otherwise pays its staff from its own budget. Nonetheless, Susan Pollay receives a vehicle allowance of $315 per month from the City.

Ryan J. Stanton

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 4:26 p.m.

Pollay's vehicle allowance is paid for out of the DDA's budget, which is technically a component unit of the larger city budget. And Jack is correct, it does look like the city's expenses related to vehicle allowances have dropped off considerably, from $88K in 2010 to $85K in 2011 to just under $80K in 2012, and now $48K in 2013. A good handful of employees have dropped off the vehicle allowance list, including the city administrator, city attorney, police chief, fire chief, service area administrators, etc. I might add a sentence or two noting this at the end of the story.

Vivienne Armentrout

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 3:58 p.m.

That is a good question - Ryan, can you clarify that Pollay is receiving her vehicle allowance from the City general fund or is this as part of her DDA compensation?


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 3:44 p.m.

How dose one who drives to and from work get the highest allowance?

Ryan J. Stanton

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 2:58 p.m.

Some of you have raised some interesting points. How about it? Who thinks the city should establish bicycle allowances to encourage alternative commuting?


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 8:26 p.m.

I had the same thought Ryan or take AATA around the city


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 7:53 p.m.

How about mandatory usage of bicycles. Someone should be using those bike lanes they are so proud of having.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 6:02 p.m.

Bicycle and alternative commuting (public transit) allowances are very popular in Europe especially with companies with a large number of employees who must commute to work each day. In Europe the allowances are a part of the effort of the companies to be eco friendly by encouraging their employees to take public transit or ride a bicycle. I have worked with colleagues over the years from Europe who would bike 5-10 miles or more one way to work. And yes, these include those in countries with worse weather than Michigan.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 3:22 p.m.

Cute, Ryan, but point well made!

Ryan J. Stanton

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 2:52 p.m.

In case anyone is curious, the city has 677 regular employees right now, not counting temps. So that means about 2 percent of city employees are given car allowances.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 2:29 p.m.

Just Democrats being Democrats.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 8:55 p.m.

This is done is State Governments and other governmental units across the Country regardless of party. Get real, it's a expense --- these people drive as part of their job and must be reimbursed, it has nothing to do with politics.

Go Blue

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 2:10 p.m.

Maybe it is less expensive for the city to pay an employee an allowance if they drive constantly as part of their paid employment. Has a comparison been done to validate using an allowance instead of providing a vehicle? However, to use that allowance as an additional part of their wages because they could not be given a raise is in poor taste and should not be allowed. Considering employment includes paid vacations, holidays, personal days, sick days, health insurance, probably some form of retirement matching and who knows what other benefits, circumventing the system to give a raise under the guise of a vehicle allowance is.....................................


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 2:07 p.m.

I wonder why the executive director of the DDA needs a vehicle allowance. I would be interested in hearing the argument about that. The DDA should be disbanded, all they do is raise parking rates and build boondoggle 14 story buildings.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 1:50 p.m.

When I worked at an auto company we technically had mileage reoimbursement. However, it was severely discouraged and so in effect it didn't exist. We were high;y paid so it was just a part of the job. I believe the Ann Arbor officials are also highly paid and the expense should be considerewd a condition of employment, that is, no reimbursement. If you don't like that then go find a better job.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 1:40 p.m.

Why even print this story? It's a whole lot cheaper to reimburse than to maintain city vehicles.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 8:25 p.m.

Alan in case you missed this line in the article "But an auditor raised concerns recently that the city is letting employees with vehicle allowances still claim mileage reimbursements for out-of-town trips." They are essentially double dipping


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 1:39 p.m.

Ms. Pollay should get herself a Go!Pass for $5/year, saving the taxpayers over $3700 annually.

Nicholas Urfe

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 1:35 p.m.

Does this cover the gas? I have trouble believing $200 could cover a car lease and gas for an employee who does a lot of driving as part of their job. The numbers don't jive. Do employees have gas cards, or credit cards for gas purchases? Does the city have an account at a gas station? Where do they buy gas and how do they pay. For employees who take vehicles home, how is their gas usage away from work accounted for? What kind of car have we gifted the head of the DDA?


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 1:43 p.m.

This is reimbursement for use of their own cars. They buy their gas out of the allowance. The IRS allowance is just over 50 cents/mile.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 1:33 p.m.

The IRS allowance is 55.5 cents per mile. So if you take the monthly allowance and double it you would get an approximation of how many miles they would drive on city business (not back and forth to work) to make it equal to the allowance. Who pays for the gas? Don't forget the earlier discussion saying some of these people also claimed mileage. That's called fraud in my book. I think a full audit may be in order.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 1:28 p.m.

Always remember that they are not spending their money. They are spending our money. No controls, no accountability and no conscience. City governments are out-of-control with their benefit agreements, lavish pensions and spending habits. Unbelievable! Go figure!


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 1:46 p.m.

Your reaction is unbelievable. It's a lot cheaper to reimburse employees to use their own cars than to maintain a fleet of vehicles for them to use. $200/month is only about 400 miles or 100 miles/week. That seems pretty low to me for an assessor. This is not a benefit, it is a cost saving measure.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 1:12 p.m.

I trust both the Fire and Police Chiefs get city-paid hybrids as they were not listed. Even the mayor should be able to bicycle around once and awhile to visit his poor taxpayers of Loxley. The DDA. Hmmm. Adios. There should be no question about whether Ms. Polley deserves a tidy city subsidy or not. The DDA should no longer exist. No DDA, no more DDA city handouts. That was so easy. In the 1970's people were fleeing their dying urban centers across the US in droves. That era has long since vanished (except the automobile ruins like those in Flint and Detroit). DDAs were established back then to counter that urban economic decay. Today cities are dissolving their DDA cliques as being a largely unnecessary expense (Algonac, LeBlanc, Pontiac, Walled Lake, etc.). Another outlived government institution without a cause. Who gets paid for all those city parking stickers the employees use for work, anyway?


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 1:08 p.m.

This one makes NO sense to me! And "why" the odd amount? •Susan Pollay, DDA executive director — $315.63


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 1:07 p.m.

Maybe the DDA should find someone who can make the DDA more walkable without the need for a car


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 1 p.m.

Pollay gets $$$ to drive ..when you bow @ the throne of the annointed ones you get the in OZ where the bicycle is worshiped perhaps that would be a more appropriate months allowance would buy a nice 3 speed and vio'la the city saves $3,500....


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 3:36 p.m.

The bike should get respect. It doesn't pollute, kill people or animals, cause congestion or take parking spots, damage the roads, and lowers healthcare costs. What is more, we subsidize you guys.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 12:57 p.m.

Say, Ryan - does the city ever just happily hand over this information in the interest of transparency (like one would expect), or do you have to FOIA everything?

Ryan J. Stanton

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 2:56 p.m.

I have a pretty good working relationship with the city's administrators. They're very helpful in a lot of cases and do happily pass along information I ask for many times. But sometimes you just want to be 100% sure you're getting everything, so you file a FOIA as a matter of process. Doesn't necessarily mean they wouldn't give up the info otherwise.

C. Montgomery Burns

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 12:53 p.m.

Much ado about nothing. It's a lot less expensive than purchasing or leasing, insuring, and maintaining city vehicles for their city business use. A few of the positions however, that wouldn't involve much city business related driving should probably be getting mileage reimbursement rather than an allowance, though.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 12:46 p.m.

You can easily imagine why most of those people would get a car allowance. Except for one particular example - Susan Pollay of the DDA. Why an allowance for anyone on the DDA? There work is about downtown, so where do they need to drive to? And shouldn't they all be riding the bus anyway? You know, like they want everyone else to do. Abolish the DDA!


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 12:47 p.m.

"Their" work ...


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 12:30 p.m.

If all these people are getting the extra money, I hope it's because they use their own cars for the money. What I don't understand is why the Assistant Fire Chief is getting it. There should be a vehicle available to her for any work he is doing for the Department. In fact, each depatment should have a vehicle for them to use if they are on the clock and doing work for the city. 6 of them just from one Department. That's just crazy. And the city leaders wonder why they have to make cuts to Public Safety all the time. Stop giving them this money each month and stop buying the crappy art and you will have plenty of money to keep the Public Safety at a safe level.

tim somers

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 12:28 p.m.

Most of these people are required to drive as part of their job, this is simpler than the city providing transportation to complete their work


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 3:14 p.m.

It may be true that these employees must drive as part of their employment but I would hope that they provide detailed monthly reports including distances traveled and costs incurred such as parking fees. Keeping an accounting ledger with usage information is not overwhelming.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 12:27 p.m.

"But an auditor raised concerns recently that the city is letting employees with vehicle allowances still claim mileage reimbursements for out-of-town trips." This is what auditors do. Thank you Mr. (or Ms.) Auditor for doing exactly what you are supposed to do. I suspect the employees that still claimed that mileage knew exactly what they were doing. Also.....isn't Postema supposed to be on that list to the tune of $330 bucks?


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 6:16 p.m.

Question then....why does he not get one this year? Was there equivalent compensation for it....or was it removed to "trim the pork" as they say?

Ryan J. Stanton

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 2:38 p.m.

Postema had a vehicle allowance as part of his contract up until last year but the City Council changed that in November and he no longer has one, nor does City Administrator Steve Powers.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 12:22 p.m.

Most of the allowances seem reasonable to me. I think lots of folks are looking to go on a witch hunt for any reason.


Fri, Feb 1, 2013 : 12:42 a.m.

I read the article and thought that the vehicle allowances were not excessive, ESPECIALLY as an alternative to city-provided cars and insurance.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 3:11 p.m.

How do you figure that these allowances are reasonable? What information do you have that was not in the article?

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 12:17 p.m.

Good points by DennisP. If the allowances are for folks to use their personal vehicle for city business it makes complete sense. But if its an allowence to drive to work where they then use a city vehicle its no longer a burden tax payers should shoulder. The last sentence in the story.... " has another FOIA request pending with the city for records showing which employees have city-provided vehicles they are able to take home and commute to and from work with.".... makes me wonder if these allowances are for commuting to work or for using a personal vehicle during work? I am confused.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 12:15 p.m.

Every one of those positions seems to be reasonable, car based need, except......DDA Executive Director. I would love to hear the argument for that one.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 3:10 p.m.

How do you know that the allowances are reasonable? Are those receiving allowances required to report how often they use their vehicles for business-related activities? If the allowance is for parking then I would ask why these employees can not get a reduced monthly rate like Baracuda employees have which amounts to a cost of $90 per month to use the Library Lane parking structure.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 12:02 p.m.

I agree with others who question the DDA director getting a car allowance. Where does she have to drive on a daily basis? From south Main St. to north Main St.? I suppose this is to cover her parking fees. In which case, that $200 figure would be low... Seriously, though, you can see where some employees would likely do a bit of driving and it would be sensible for them to use their own vehicles. The assessors, for instance, likely drive a bit. I would like an audit to confirm if they do use their own vehicles or if they use city vehicles. But, if they do, I can see where an allowance would serve better than buying and maintaing vehicles and insurance. Federal mileage rates are about $0.56/mile traveled and factor in all operating costs. That's a common measure. So, it would seem easy to decide if those are overly generous and constitute excessive reimbursement with the excess being viewed as taxable compensation by the IRS. If the allowances match typical miles used on vehicle for daily routine use, then I can understand travel reimbursement for job-related travel. If not, then we have double-dipping and that needs to stop. I would be surprised that the DDA director's allowance matches her actual usage. I would not be surprised for assessors who need to travel all over the city. At $48,000 per year, we could fund an awful lot of art work in the city... (being sarcastic).


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 11:49 a.m.

"...the city administrator and city administrator no longer receive them." A.A. has dual city administrators? Let's do some proofreading please.

Ryan J. Stanton

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 2:15 p.m.

That should read city administrator and city attorney. It's been fixed.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 11:55 a.m.

Today's GN has arrived... Just in time too! I wasn't going to be able to start my day without this being corrected!!! Thanks Dennis for keeping on the straight and narrow!


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 11:38 a.m.

Why does the Executive Director of the DDA rate a vehicle allowance. We don't need the DDA. All they want to do is raise parking rates and build 14 story buildings.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 11:01 a.m.

When the cats are away the mice will play.