You have requested my opinion as to whether the Department of Education may operate a van donated by Toyota with the slogan stenciled on the side doors reading "Another Toyota Vehicle Serving the Community."
It is my opinion that the Department of Administrative Services ("DOAS") is authorized to regulate vehicles acquired by donation to state agencies and that DOAS' regulations prohibit the stencil that you describe.
Official Code of Georgia Annotated § 50-19-1 authorizes the DOAS commissioner to "provide policies and regulations governing acquisition, utilization, preventive maintenance, repair, and replacement of all motor vehicles, exclusive of the off-the-road and highly specialized motor vehicle equipment, owned by any department, institution, board, bureau, or agency of the state." The vehicle you describe is a van for the use of the Atlanta Area School for the Deaf and nothing about it or its use appears to fit the category "off-the-road" or "highly specialized." Compare 1975 Op. Att'y Gen. 75-120 which found that highway patrol cars were highly specialized for law enforcement and traffic control.
Therefore, since the vehicle is owned by a department of the state and is not highly specialized or "off-the-road," DOAS' regulations and policies regarding its utilization apply to the donated van. DOAS has a policy in its "Motor Vehicle Management Manual" prohibiting the "placement of bumper stickers containing commercial advertising on state-owned
vehicles." Although the proposed stencil on the side of the van is not a bumper sticker, it is a commercial advertisement and falls within the spirit, if not the letter, of the DOAS' prohibition against using a state-owned vehicle to display commercial advertising. In addition, the Manual states that state-owned vehicles must have uniform state identification decals which in the case of a van must be placed on its doors. Clearly, if the Toyota stencil is on the door, it would preempt or detract from the state identification decal. Thus, it is clear from a reading of the DOAS' Manual that the proposed stencil is not in compliance with DOAS' policies for state-owned vehicles.
Therefore, it is my official opinion that the Department of Administrative Services' policy prohibiting commercial advertising on state vehicles prevents the Department of Education from operating a donated Toyota van with the slogan "Another Toyota Vehicle Serving the Community" stenciled on the side.
KATHRYN L. ALLEN
Senior Assistant Attorney General