Montgomery County officials say they will crack down on abuse of take-home vehicles.

Officials in the county's Fleet Management Services told County Council members on Wednesday that some employees have been taking their county-owned cars home when the vehicles are not allowed to leave county lots.

In an attempt to stop the abuse, Bill Griffiths, division chief for the department, said the agency is retraining all county departments on which vehicles are allowed to be taken home. He did not have statistics on how many cars are being misused.

The county has 734 administrative vehicles, with about 157 of those take-home vehicles.

Griffiths, who has been in his position for slightly more than a year, told the council's Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee that the retraining is an attempt to better organize the department and try to save money. He also is looking at reclassifying some take-home cars as "agency assigned vehicles," which are required to stay in county-owned lots overnight.

Councilman Roger Berliner, D-Bethesda, said he was concerned that employees were illegally taking home county cars. He questioned how workers could not understand the rules if Fleet Management Services had to put its seal of approval on classifying vehicles as take-home.

"I'm struggling as to why these definitions are so hard to grasp," he said of the difference between take-home and agency-assigned vehicles. "This is not complicated."

Griffiths said workers in all departments who use county vehicles will be retrained in May to better understand the rules, and the county will be taking a closer look at how those vehicles are used.

Councilman Hans Riemer, D-at large, said he wanted to see the criteria written down and put into the fleet management department records, so there is a clear understanding of protocol. He said the thresholds for determining whether some vehicles are better than others -- such as gas mileage and age -- need to be mandated across the board.

"There's so many avenues to reduce our miles and emissions," he said. "It's gotta be written down somewhere."

Beryl Feinberg, chief operating officer in the Department of General Services, told the council that the department is recalculating its approach for maintaining and purchasing vehicles, as well as developing new criteria to determine when a new car is needed.