Is more than $100k “chump change?”
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.
“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.”
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.
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.