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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



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.


1RightofLeft(44 comments)posted 2 years, 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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2author50(1121 comments)posted 2 years, 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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3peggygurney(408 comments)posted 2 years, 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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4tookie(64 comments)posted 2 years, 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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5ElPolloRetrasado(212 comments)posted 2 years, 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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6PXGhost(51 comments)posted 2 years, 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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7Silence_Dogood(1675 comments)posted 2 years, 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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8michael1757(490 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago

If ole sammy doesn't use computers,how do memo's get distributed through-out the city? On paper,typed by his short-hand taking secretary? If this guys cell phone plan had text,which it does,is it in writing that they can't do that,or is sammy & the city facing a lawsuit,by making him pay,or docking his paycheck,in which,the prosecutor will be working on that,instead of working to put another murderer behind bars,which are plentiful in this city,& costing more besides?

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9One_Who_Stayed(240 comments)posted 2 years, 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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10DwightK(1537 comments)posted 2 years, 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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