Orange County Seal

Published: Feb. 14, 2014 Updated: 1:49 p.m.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Shawn Nelson zips around town in a silver Toyota Prius – a $44,000 plug-in hybrid – which he gets to drive for free.

Nelson gets the 2012 Prius – and got a natural gas Honda Civic before that, and a hydrogen fuel cell Honda FCX Clarity before that – because he’s the Orange County board’s representative on the South Coast Air Quality Management District, a separate agency charged with keeping SoCal air breathable. Nelson and other AQMD reps pilot those late-model advanced-technology cars so they can be “clean air ambassadors” when they meet constituents around town.

But that’s not all.

Nelson also collects a $765 car allowance from the County of Orange every month – $9,180 per year – even though the Prius he usually drives costs him nothing.

Nelson doesn’t appear to be breaking any rules, but taking both the AQMD car and the county auto allowance has raised the ire of union officials. Labor leaders say the supervisors’ benefits are excessive, considering they ask rank-and-file employees to take little or no pay raises.

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