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Sammarone to strengthen policies after worker racks up $400 bill


Published: Thu, October 24, 2013 @ 12:05 a.m.

Sammarone to strengthen policies after employee racks up $400 bill in 3 months

By David Skolnick

skolnick@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

After finding out that a public works laborer racked up about $400 in private calls and text messages on his city cellphone, Mayor Charles Sammarone is looking not only to enforce Youngstown’s cellphone policies, but toughen them.

“Taxpayers shouldn’t pay for personal calls,” Sammarone said Wednesday. “If it’s a city phone, all you need is the ability to call in and call out. You don’t need texting or smartphones or games on the phone.”

The city ran more efficiently without cellphones, said Sammarone, who doesn’t text message or use a computer.

“Cellphones and computers are the lazy man’s way of communicating,” he said. “All we need are cheap [cell] phones and cheap plans. I’ve got a basic phone and it serves me fine.”

The finance department recently contacted Charles Shasho, deputy director of public works, after noticing that the cellphone bill of Jim Clacko, a traffic-signal laborer hired in July, was about $400 over the past three months. Shasho then told the mayor about the problem.

Although the city has a cellphone policy, the city won’t discipline Clacko since it was never shown to him, Sammarone said.

“I told the kid to use common sense, but when he was given a phone he wasn’t given the city’s policy on using it,” he said.

After getting a city cellphone, a written copy of its policy — adopted Jan. 31, 2008, by the board of control — is to be given to an employee, Sammarone said.

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 so as not to incur additional costs.

Department heads are supposed to provide the policy to those who receive city-issued cells, but haven’t done so for about two years, said Carol Peters, the city’s purchasing agent. The employee, that person’s supervisor and department head are supposed to sign the policy.

Clacko used the city phone for text messaging, and that particular phone didn’t have that as a standard feature, resulting in most of the $400 in fees he incurred, Shasho said. Clacko had the phone taken from him and is reimbursing the city, Shasho said.

Sammarone said he, Peters and city Law Director Anthony Farris will review the current policy over the next few weeks and make changes to improve it. Also, department heads will be required to review the bills of their employees to make sure that if there are personal calls, a reason is given by workers and the city is reimbursed any costs, Sammarone said.

Also, the city may review previous cellphone bills to see if employees used them for private use and seek reimbursement, he said.

The mayor said he didn’t know if this is a widespread problem or an isolated one.

Sammarone wants to know who has city phones, particularly smartphones, and for there to be justification for employees needing them.

There are 95 city-issued cellphones with the monthly bill averaging about $5,000, Peters said. There are about 20 smartphones, but that number needed to be verified, she said.

“I don’t know if we need that many phones,” Sammarone said.

The phones are given primarily to department heads and those who work out of the office in the water, sewer and street departments, Peters said.

As for smartphones, the decisions to purchase them come from department heads, Peters said.

Shasho has a city-issued iPhone 4, a smartphone.

“I use it to access my work email when I’m out of the office,” he said. “If it wasn’t for email access, I’d use my personal phone, which I do for city business.”

Sammarone said cracking down on cellphone use is part of his accountability program that includes time cards for city workers and GPS tracking devices in city-owned cars.


Comments

1Ianacek(887 comments)posted 9 months ago

“Cellphones and computers are the lazy man’s way of communicating,”

It's hard to believe someone with such an outlook still holds public office in 2013 .

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2RightofLeft(41 comments)posted 9 months ago

It's the Mahoning Valley and he has a "D" behind his name. Are you beginning to see a pattern yet?

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3johnyoung(238 comments)posted 9 months ago

The way it works in most private sector organizations is that the employee uses his or her personal phone, and then submits a monthly expense report to be reimbursed for any business-related calls. Employees are rarely if ever given company issued cell phones for this very reason-it is too difficult to monitor and control abuse.

Why is it that the public sector has such difficulty utilizing simple fiscally responsible concepts such as this?

Suggest removal:

4author50(1121 comments)posted 9 months ago

It was one of Sammarone's minions checking on how many patrons were at Dooney's every happy hour. Don't forget, Mayor Chuck gave his son at least $20,000.00 to open and then CLOSE this venture. The $20,000 came from the taxpayers.

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5UticaShale(850 comments)posted 9 months ago

An example of the leaders poor Youngstown has been left with since the brain drain.

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6Knightcap(682 comments)posted 9 months ago

Public employees have to start paying their own way. Start with giving them what they pay for in health-care which is about$120 a month, then put them into the Obama exchanges and they can pay the rest.

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7peggygurney(391 comments)posted 9 months ago

“Cellphones and computers are the lazy man’s way of communicating,”

My grandma said the same things a few years back. She was about Mr. Sammarone's age at the time, ha.

I do agree with johnyoung, above.

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8tookie(64 comments)posted 9 months ago

This is what happens in government. A city with hundreds of employees, a multi-million dollar budget and no HR department. A new employee is hired and no one bothers to fill him in on city work policies. For all the mayor's talk about accountability, I don't see much progress.

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9L0L(640 comments)posted 9 months ago

"Sammarone said cracking down on cellphone use is part of his accountability program"

-Then discipline the department head that did not issue him the policy you moron!

@knightcap.

- under the Obama exchanges would they also get a free Obama phone, welfare, ssi, food stamps etc that all the leaches get? Just wondering since you have all the answers and apparently know how things are ran.

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10123goz(509 comments)posted 9 months ago

"Clacko used the city phone for text messaging, and that particular phone didn’t have that as a standard feature, resulting in most of the $400 in fees he incurred, Shasho said. Clacko had the phone taken from him and is reimbursing the city, Shasho said."

It's the plan that has the feature, not the phone. If the phone didn't have the feature he wouldn't have been able to text. So, that leads to what kind of plan(s) do they have?
Is there more than 1 plan? Do they only have so many minutes? Would unlimited talk/text save money in the long run? Were they job related texts? How many carriers are they using? Do they need all those phones?
If somebody is out in the field that needs to communicate, there are no pay phones around, so what is the alternative? A radio system? I'm sure that exists like the police, but even the cops use cell phones more often than you think.

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11ElPolloRetrasado(201 comments)posted 9 months ago

Wow, Sammarone needs to at least get up to the 1990's! The world is run by computers and this idiot doesn't use one?! No wonder Y-town is going no where! Just as any good business, get the employees an allowance per month for cell phones and make them get their own phones just as johnyoung stated. Government is a business, run it as such or get the eff out of office!

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12PXGhost(51 comments)posted 9 months ago

I think someone needs to introduce the City of Youngstown to Straight Talk Wireless! $45 a month for unlimited everything! It wouldn't really matter if the calls/texts were Personal or Business, the price would be the same!

But making a move like this would be intelligent, so let's not expect local Government to adopt this rational solution...

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13Silence_Dogood(1317 comments)posted 9 months ago

"What do you expect, your a pretty girl" and now "Cellphones and computers are the lazy man’s way of communicating”. This antique really needs to retire. Someone needs to show this archaic buffoon that he does not need to go to the "Y" for hours on end every workday (on city time) to check out the "babes", that it would be more time efficient if he would just download pictures of "pretty girls" onto his smart phone and computer.

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14Knightcap(682 comments)posted 9 months ago

@LOL

The average wage of someone employed by the city (cop, fire, road, mayor,etc) is 50k to 60K. The average Youngstown taxpayer who is not employed by the city falls around 20K. So to give you an answer I would say no to phone, welfare, food stamps. I know takers always want more but there has to be a line drawn somewhere. If you got any other questions let me know, happy to help. Thanks.

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15One_Who_Stayed(236 comments)posted 9 months ago

Answer is simple -

Vote for Chris Travers this November 5th. Problem solved - Chuck will then be retired - whether he likes it or not.

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16DwightK(1236 comments)posted 9 months ago

What kind of plan cell phone contract does the city have?! You can have cheap phones with texting that don't cost $50 per month. Where's the volume discount? Update that plan Mr. Mayor.

Or go back to using carrier pigeons.

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