Is more than $100k “chump change?”

4/14/2008:

Mayor David Roberts recently made some comments regarding 2nd Ward Councilwoman Beth Mason’s actions to ensure transparency at City Hall (cell phone records, EZ-Pass, etc.), in essence saying she was “nitpicking.”

See Mason’s response below.

Beth Mason Hoboken“Mayor David Roberts attempt to undermine the work of the city council’s cell phone policy committee are a naked attempt to deflect criticism of his failure to establish and enforce reasonable policies that prevent the abuse of taxpayer dollars, says Councilwoman Beth Mason.

Mason led the council’s action two weeks ago to formulate a policy committee to deal with cell phone, EZ-Pass and vehicle use by city employees. Her action came after reviews of cell phone bills and her inability to get thorough cell phone records from the city.

In published remarks today, Mayor Roberts maintains that the city already has a cell phone policy and he tried to discredit the work of the council by saying it was “nitpicking.”

Mason responded by saying that $108,000 in cell phone bills last year is not nitpicking. “The mayor may have so little regard for taxpayer money that he considers $108,000 nitpicking, but to most hard working people in the city, it’s a lot of money,” said Mason.

While the mayor maintains that the city has a cell phone use policy by employees, Mason said the policy is not clear and apparently unenforced.

“When the mayor says that employees are not supposed to use cell phones for personal use, that’s a statement, not a policy.” said Mason. “I have seen cell phone bills with calls to Hawaii, Las Vegas and Palm Beach, Florida; I don’t think those were official calls.

“Have there been any penalties levied against those who abuse their cell phone privileges? We don’t know and the mayor isn’t saying.”

Mason said the committee is going to examine a complete policy including reimbursement for personal use of the cell phones and determining which employees get cell phones, EZ Pass transponders and city-owned vehicles.

“The mayor says there is a policy, but he doesn’t say how it is enforced of if it is ever enforced,” said Mason. “Is there a method for collecting reimbursements from employees who make personal calls or use their vehicles for personal trips? If there is, we don’t know what it is, and I doubt if the mayor knows.”

Accurate Bills

Mason said she doubts that the cost figures given by the administration to the media are accurate. She says there are multiple cell phone providers and therefore multiple bills. “Judging from what I have seen on the monthly bills list, I think the cell phone figures quoted by the administration are low,” said Mason, a business consultant.

She also noted that the mayor’s so-called policy fails to explain why the city has multiple cell phone providers. “One thing the committee will explore is the potential cost savings by having one cell phone provider instead of three or four,” added the Second Ward Councilwoman.

Park Help?

Mason said the additional remarks by the mayor that he would rather have the council’s help on park issues, is disingenuous. “I’ve been trying to work with the administration on park matters since before I became a councilwoman. But I can’t even get an accurate accounting of how much the city spent on its park proposals and I can’t get the mayor’s cooperation on the Maxwell Place park project,’ she said.

Mason noted that the mayor’s comments demonstrate his discomfort with the council taking a prominent role in leading the city.

“I think it is disheartening that the mayor would try to discredit the work of the committee in order to save himself from the embarrassment of failing to actually implement policies that will help the city run more efficiently,” concluded Mason.

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9 Comments on "Is more than $100k “chump change?”"

homeslice
Member
homeslice

Given how corrupt this town is, we need to start somewhere and at least Beth is willing to do that so big kudos to her. I think everyone is frustrated with how this town is run and would like to see dramatic changes to ‘how things are done’ but I don’t think that’s going to happen as fast or to the level that we all would like.

2 questions: 1) when is the next chance to vote for a new mayor? 2) given all the corruption that’s going on in this town, when is our governor going to step in and launch a full investigation into how this city is run? He lives here for crying out loud!

matt_72
Member

Forget how much theoretical time they wasted on personal calls, the better question is do they need that many cell phones to begin with. I bet the city could make do with 20 or less. It isn’t as if people couldn’t be reached on their personal cell phone in an emergency. They don’t need a dedicated city cell phone unless their job requires the consistent use of a cell phone while performing job related responsibilities. There are few people that meet that criteria.

Kaiser Sosay
Member
Kaiser Sosay

The mayor and city hall decision makers dont understand that all there back room,tight lip actions hurt people below them and they dont deal with legit complaints from residents,those are left to mull around until they can pass blame onto someone else…

notnow
Member
notnow
OK. So the City spent $108,000. last year on Cell Phone Bills. Let’s assume that 10% of the calls were fraudulent. That equals $10,800. of unnecessary spending. Let’s also assume that the City pays $.02 a call on a group plan. That’s 5,400,000 minutes of calls that someone has to go through and actually call to verify who is on the other line, and why were they talking to a City official. Do you know how difficult it will be to nail someone. When is the last time someone here even opened their phone bill. When I was younger, I use to check for the constant dropped calls, but after being put on hold for 45 minutes to dispute the call, I got the hint that I was wasting my time. I attributed it to the cost of doing business. Mrs. Mason has formed a committee consisting of 3 other Council members to start going through these bills. I guess we can forget about any new parks, parking issues, sewer issues, and the slew of other quality of life issues that we can make better. This was a poorly picked battle. If the best we can do is pick a fight over $10,800. out of an almost $100,000,000.00 budget, WE HAVE PROBLEMS. While I am not here to defend the administrations actions, I will not sit idle and pretend that this initiative will prove to make any meanigful change. While the spirit of it I am sure is well intended,… Read more »
rag246
Member
rag246

[quote comment=”78140″]$100K is chump change to the mayor! Roberts steals that much every day!

Most large corps I know here in Manhattan bid to only one cell service provider. So does the fed gov’t. That’s how they get lower rates, which you would think would be a focus when you are using taxpayer dollars.[/quote]
Yup, the assumption is that fault tolerance is built into each carrier’s network anyway.

Don’t worry, Beth. Eventually the old guard will have socked away enough, and will start yielding on meaningless points as they milk the last growth from Hoboken. When it’s all topped off, they’ll acquiesce entirely, retire to Key Largo, and leave the “yuppies” to manage the debt left behind and the 30-40% of the population who don’t pay taxes but draw on them.

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