New Youngstown cell policy restricts personal calls for workers

By David Skolnick


As the result of a public-works employee racking up about $450 in private calls and text messages on a city cellphone, the administration is changing the policy to eliminate personal calls, except in emergencies, and require a paper trail for each phone.

The plan is to have the new policy in place by the end of the month.

Mayor Charles Sammarone said Thursday that the policy is being fine-tuned to make those with city cellphones more accountable.

Employees who receive city phones as well as their department heads and Carol Peters, the city’s purchasing agent, will be required to sign the policy with copies going into a central city file and in the employees’ personnel files, said Rebecca Gerson, the city’s first assistant law director who worked on the policy.

Those signed policies will be checked against the city’s master list of cellphone users to make sure the two match, she said. If not, then whatever needs to be done to make them match will be done, she said.

The policy will be given to department heads today or early next week, and they will be responsible for distributing it and getting signatures from those with city cellphones, Sammarone said.

“We need a paper trail to make sure everyone understands the policy and the phones are being properly used,” he said.

Also, department heads must review the cellphone bills of their employees to make sure the phones aren’t being used for personal calls, Sammarone said.

The city has had a cellphone policy for five years, but it hasn’t been followed properly for about the last two years, Peters said.

Sammarone — who has a basic cellphone, doesn’t text or use a computer — said he prefers to talk to people face-to-face, but added that he understands the need to communicate by other methods.

“But if you’re across the hall, don’t send me an email,” he said. “Come see me, because I’m going to have questions.”

The city has about 95 cellphones with a monthly bill of about $5,000, Peters said.

In late October, Sammarone said he wanted justification for anyone with smartphones. But on Thursday, Sammarone, who is serving as mayor until the end of the month, said he would leave smart-phone decisions to department heads.

The cellphone issue came to light in late October when it was discovered that James Clacko, a laborer in the public works’ traffic engineering signal department, had spent about $450 over a three-month period using his city cellphone for personal calls and texts.

After The Vindicator reported Nov. 13 about Clacko’s numerous job-performance issues — including parking a city vehicle in no-parking spaces, failing to respond to a call while on standby and failing to respond to numerous efforts to contact him while on call — Sammarone suspended him without pay for two days.

Clacko’s probationary period ends today. Charles Shasho, deputy director of public works, said Clacko has done a good job after a rough start and will be hired and no longer on probation.

Clacko, who is paid $21,234.27 annually in base pay, was hired June 10.

When he received his suspension, Clacko said, “I am not this animal and bad person [being portrayed] in these incidents.”

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