Is anybody watching the phone bills?

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 1, 2010

Digging through more than 100 pages of a monthly phone bill paid by Adams County taxpayers, one has to wonder — isn’t someone supposed to be watching this stuff?

Our staff’s analysis of 12 months of cell phone records of the more than 50 taxpayer funded county cell phones revealed many questions.

A more than $500 billing error wasn’t caught until our staff requested records.

Other bills show one employee apparently talked nearly non-stop on his county phone, racking up nearly unbelievable usage. In 12 months, he talked so long that had the minutes been strung together into one continuous conversation, the call would have lasted for more than one and one-half months, 24 hours each day.

Other bills show games and other “add-ons” that were billed to taxpayers. All of the users involved have said the services were acquired unintentionally.

Most of the worrisome issues found on the bills can be explained by simple ignorance of the charges.

It’s disappointing, but perhaps not surprising, to note that no one was apparently paying much attention to the bills.

No one in accounting and none of the supervisors, who you may recall vowed to go through the county’s budget “line by line” to root out wasteful spending, was paying any attention.

Maybe in their minds it wasn’t a big deal. After all, it wasn’t their money being spent; it was yours.

We urge county leaders to examine the issue and work to justify why each taxpayer-provided cell phone is needed. If savings can be made by turning off some phones, let’s make the changes and reallocate the funds to a better purpose.

For example, halving the cell phone bill could pump up the county’s anemic recreation budget by more than 42 percent. That would be more wise use of taxpayer money.

The next call may be one from taxpayers calling for accountability.

Hopefully, county leaders will pick up the phone.