A Youngstown employee who misused a city cellphone has a history of other issues

Published: Wed, November 13, 2013 @ 12:02 a.m.

Public works employee was warned about personal calls

By David Skolnick



The public works employee who racked up about $450 in private calls and text messages on a city cellphone — which is leading to a re-examination of the cellphone policy — has a history of other issues during his five months on the job.

While improperly using the city phone for personal calls, and being verbally warned about it, James Clacko, a laborer in the public works’ traffic engineering signal department, kept demanding he be upgraded to a smartphone, according to a document in his personnel file.

When Mayor Charles Sammarone found out about Clacko’s misuse of a city cellphone a few weeks ago, he said it wouldn’t be fair to discipline the employee because he and numerous others were not given the city’s policy on cellphone use.

Department heads are supposed to provide the written policy to those receiving city-issued cellphones and have employees sign it. But that hasn’t been done for about two years. The policy requires city workers to pay for any costs associated with personal use, they shouldn’t be on the phone for more than 15 minutes at a time without a documented reason, and they need to know the features of the phones.

Clacko, hired June 10, used his city cell for text messaging and it didn’t have that as a standard feature.

Based on a document in Clacko’s personnel file, the average employee with the same plan incurs monthly charges of $23.78 to $33.78. Clacko’s monthly bills were $148.26, $240.96 and $193.59.

Clacko is reimbursing the city for the cellphone fees.

His personnel file details a number of other problems.

Paul Vaughn, Clacko’s supervisor, wrote in an Oct. 11 evaluation that Clacko seems “to get into a person’s face or personal space when he is being told something he does not like to hear. He has not [shown] any violence at me, but he has [shown] a short temper and violence in the shop. He likes to push people into things he wants. In time I feel he will ... only get worse with his temper as he gets more stressed. James is very demanding, such as he keeps demanding me to have his city phone changed to an iPhone.”

In an Oct. 2 letter to Charles Shasho, deputy director of public works, Vaughn wrote that Clacko:

Was reported at a club drinking for several hours after work with his city vehicle outside. Shasho said the city “can’t substantiate he was drinking,” but Clacko shouldn’t have used a city vehicle to get there.

Parked a city vehicle in a no-parking space during the downtown Greater Youngstown Italian Fest, telling a police officer he was on call so he was allowed to do that.

Parked a city vehicle at a Youngstown State University football game in a no-parking zone, telling YSU police he was on call so he could park there.

Failed to respond to a call while on standby — which pays an additional $160 a week and requires him to be no more than an hour away without prior approval.

Called a city vendor to say the company needed to be on standby while he went to Cleveland without permission.

Went to a Canfield golf course in a city vehicle when he was on call.

Failed to respond to numerous efforts to contact him while he was on call.

Didn’t respond to the required 30-minute response time required during regular work hours.

Clacko also used the city’s traffic engineering signal office as his address on a late bill from an auto-parts business, and refused to wear his uniform at work, Vaughn wrote in other letters to Shasho.

Clacko, who is paid $21,234.27 annually in base pay, was hired June 10 and was supposed to be finished with his probationary period after 120 days, around mid-October. But because he has called in sick often, his probationary period ends Dec. 4.

“He had some issues, and since we had a conversation [in mid-October], he’s been behaving since,” Shasho said. “We had a poignant discussion as to what is expected of him. His attitude is improved. Those issues are documented, and any further problems” could result in Clacko’s being fired.

Except being required to pay the city for his misuse of the cellphone, Clacko hasn’t been disciplined for anything else.

About two weeks ago, Sammarone said he was going to toughen up the city’s cellphone policy, questioned the use of texting, smartphone and games on phones and said the city ran more efficiently without cellphones and computers.

Sammarone said in late October that he, Law Director Anthony Farris and Carol Peters, the city’s purchasing agent, would review the current cellphone policy and make changes to improve it before he leaves the mayor’s office at the end of the year.

“Carol looked at cost issues at the mayor’s request and had some discussions” about that, Farris said.

Farris said he expects the three of them to meet sometime this week to work on policy changes.

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