Officials in Miami-Dade County, Florida are investigating how 170 Toyota Prius sedans were bought by the county in 2006, all but forgotten and left to rust.

The $4 million in unused six-year-old hybrids were part of a treasure trove of 293 stored away new vehicles including police cars and vans, and officials say this is not the first time such mismanagement has happened.

“It’s outrageous,” said Miami Dade County Commission, Joe Martinez to EL Nuevo Herald. “These new vehicles were bought out of control package and were stationed in a building for years. This is not the first time it happens. So you have to investigate this case and determine exactly what happened so it does not happen again.”

Martinez is running for county mayor, and last Thursday announced formation of a committee to investigate county mismanagement and corruption after the cache of vehicles parked in a building at 2100 41st Street Northwest, in the Earlington Heights section of the county was made public.

The newspaper said county officials had already begun hastily rotating these stored municipal vehicles into service, implicitly to make a show they were not really wasting money or otherwise negligent.

It said the actual investigation that uncovered the rusting away vehicles was done by a Miami Channel 41 newscast, News America.

The news team discovered them last October, and seeing a political embarrassment coming, county officials reportedly rushed approximately 135 of the six-year-old new Toyotas – which are still under warranty – into active duty in the fleet pool.

Lester Sola, director of corporate services, told El Nuevo Herald that 135 of the Prii were assigned to replace well-worn and maintenance-intensive municipal vehicles with odometer readings exceeding 130,000 miles for various county departments.

“We are making every effort to use these vehicles as soon as possible and reduce costs to taxpayers,” said Sola to El Nuevo Herald. “We are in the process of assigning these vehicles are in the building departments require.”

The case was called a “Pandora’s box” among scandals, and Sola said his department is still not sure why so many cars were bought, and “abandoned.” He said it is possible they were purchased by the previous administration when the policy for county employee vehicle use was “wider,” and his people are now analyzing this possibility, while intending to make sure such a sad history won’t be repeated.

After they get to the bottom it, he said corrective action will be taken, as meanwhile a sizable number of 2006 Prius sedans are knocking the rust off, and seeing miles for the first time.