The Jackson City Council will meet today for an update on the city's continuing problem with alleged fuel theft. In early December, council members voiced concern that more than 80 percent of city employees with city–paid gas cards were not properly tracking odometer readings, and could be abusing the card and stealing from the city. The council gave four recommendations to the city at a Dec. 1, 2008, meeting, and will revisit the issue at 2:30 p.m. today.
Ward 1 Councilman Jeff Weill, who first broached the topic in December, has already confirmed that the city is not following three of the council's four recommendations on dealing with the issue.
The city has reportedly ignored the council's first recommendation to reduce the number of employees with card access. Employee access to fuel cards actually went up by 45 individuals since the Dec. 1 hearing addressing the matter.
"From July 9 to Oct. 7 there were 1,088 employees with card access. From Oct. 8 to Dec. 31 there are 1,146," Weill pointed out.
The second recommendationthat the city prohibit manual key-inshas been so minimal as to be nonexistent, dropping from 3,543 manual key-ins to 2,957. Manual key-ins do not require the city employee present the city gas card, or even the buyer's photo ID. Some council members feared that city employees could be handing off manual key-in numbers to friends, relativeseven buyersfor misuse on the city's dime.
Council members report that the second, most recent figure for manual key-ins is based on a period one week shorter than the period producing the first number. The smaller interval suggests that city employees would have achieved something closer to the 3,543 figure if they had another week to reach it.
The council had also made a third recommendation that the city actively restrict employees to fewer fuel locations, since manual key-ins were happening as far away as the towns of Liberty and Brookhaven. Since the December recommendations, the city has reduced the number of available fuel stops from 168 to 166, essentially no change at all, according to Weill.
The council's fourth recommendation, that the city take "vigorous administrative action on card abuse," has yet to be discovered because the council has no data on administrative reprimands. Weill, in particular, wants to know what the administration has done to investigate incidence of alleged misuse.
"We want to know what they've done since December. Did you ask questions, did you write people up, did you prosecute them? Those are the answers that we just don't know, but we hope to discover," Weill said.
Council members pointed out in December that the city spent $4.6 million in fiscal year 2008 on fuelincluding police patrol vehicles, which amounts to almost $90,000 a weekbut used very little accountability for those expenditures.
Mr. Viell, your questions are all very good ones and the answers are as follows: Nothing; No, No, No and No.
Good article, Maggie.
The blog is to Mr. Jeff Weill. Sorry for the mis-spelling of his last name.
A fish rots from the head down as the saying goes.
- Jeff Lucas