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Time has run out for slackers on city of Youngstown payroll

Published: Thu, August 30, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

If the mayor of youngstown, Charles Sammarone, is looking for a slogan to define his tenure in office, he may want to consider the following: “This is not your father’s city government.” Just as General Motors Corp.’s ad campaign of many years ago, with the slogan, “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile,” highlighted the changes the company had made to its product line, Sammarone can focus public attention on the policies he has implemented since taking office a year ago with a catchy phrase.

As the mayor has repeated ad nauseam, he is all about “accountability.” And at the heart of government accountability is public service. Taxpayers have a right to expect efficient, courteous service from those on the public payroll, Sammarone says, and if meeting that goal requires a change in the culture of City Hall, so be it.

Therefore, on Sept. 10, most city employees will be greeted by something new when they show up for work: Time clocks. And not the time clocks workers in the Mahoning Valley are most familiar with, those requiring an employee’s time card to be inserted into a clock mechanism. The ones in city buildings are based on hand-recognition technology, which means an employee cannot have someone else clock in and clock out for him.

“Everything is being done to improve accountability,” the mayor says.

He began thinking about the need to monitor employees’ work habits when he observed the behavior of some City Hall types shortly after he took office, succeeding Mayor Jay Williams. One day, as he was leaving the building he saw several employees standing outside smoking. He returned some time later and saw the same individuals puffing away. He wondered if they had been out there all the time he was away, or if they had returned to work and then taken another break.

Sammarone began looking into the union contracts and concluded that the time spent on breaks and on lunch, as spelled out in the labor contracts was not being policed. He concluded that a daily record of an employee’s workday is needed.

Police officers and firefighters are exempted from the new procedure because their departments have established work rules.

Sammarone, a former Youngstown city school teacher, has a warning for those who are habitually late, or consistently fail to clock in and clock out: You will be dismissed.

If that sounds overly harsh, consider that the taxpayers of the city have long complained about the work habits of the public employees. There’s a long-standing joke about City Hall: Don’t stand in front of the doors at 4 o’clock, you’ll be trampled.

Reasonable request

The mayor is simply asking public employees to put in a full eight-hour day and to only take the amount of time permitted for breaks and for lunch.

That isn’t a lot to expect from individuals who, by and large, have pretty cushy jobs.

In another move to make government more accountable, the Sammarone administration is installing GPS tracking devices in all city cars. This will not only ensure that department heads know where their employees are at all times, but will give them the ability to respond to complaints from residents about city vehicles being seen at some unusual locations.

Finally, Sammarone is awaiting the results of an independent government efficiency study, and has indicated that he intends to make personnel and policy changes once he has studied the findings.

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