More review would mean more savings

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 7, 2012

Three years ago our staff began work on what it thought would be a simple review of cell phone bills owned and paid for by Adams County taxpayers.

After a few weeks of digging through dozens and dozens of phone records, what we found shocked us.

Gross misuse of publicly owned cell phones was evident in several cases — from the road department employee who used an astonishingly high number of minutes each month to sheriff deputies that were buying games and other services, all at taxpayer expense.

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Although the games were purchased by mistake, the sheriff’s deputy contended, the situation was clear — no one was paying too much attention to what anyone was doing with cell phones.

Talking up big bucks on taxpayers’ dollars was fine, because no one was watching.

Last year’s update showed slight improvements, and now the county has instituted a new cell phone policy intended to curb some of the excesses, but clearly some additional oversight is still needed.

Several elected county supervisors — presumably in an effort to simply provide distance from the issue — have opted to use personal phones or pick up the tab for their taxpayer one.

Despite the new policy and personal responsibility by some, the county’s cell phone bill dropped only slightly last year — approximately 2.5 percent, by our calculation.

It appears that departments can pretty much decide on their own how many phones they’d like and how often they can update their phones to the latest and greatest models.

While in some cases, clearly, county employees may need a taxpayer provided phone to allow them to quickly and efficiently be reached in an emergency, other phones remain an unnecessary luxury that could save taxpayers money if cut.