Residents deserve to know dollars being spent wisely

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 21, 2005

First it was an allegation of wrongdoing by a couple of Ironton city workers. Then as the layers of the onion began being peeled away, an ugly picture formed.

Two city workers were suspended last week after allegations arose that one had "borrowed" a piece of city equipment and another was filling his personal vehicle with gasoline charged to the city.

Employee theft is more commonplace that many of us would like to admit. A pen here, some copies there and maybe a notebook once and awhile, each of these items walk away from millions of offices each year. The missing items go unnoticed or at least they remain hushed as people deem their value not worth worrying over.

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In the case of the city workers under the microscope, both involved serious money.

During the use of the equipment on a private job, the "borrowed" equipment broke. It's difficult to say what the motivation for this was. Perhaps, the employee was trying to help someone out of a jam.

Obviously, the employee should have to pay for either repair or replacement of the equipment. But, more important, the incident has brought to light an apparent policy of allowing city workers to sign-out city equipment for personal use. Obviously, that unofficial policy needs to end, immediately.

The worker accused of stealing gasoline defends himself by saying the practice was long-standing. He admits charging the gas but alleges his superiors had encouraged the practice when a city vehicle was not available.

This is clearly a case of theft, regardless of whether it was condoned or not. Filling up a private vehicle with taxpayer-supplied gasoline and expecting none of that gasoline to be burned on non-city business is ridiculous.

Unfortunately these two examples of poor behavior may harm the reputation of other city workers.

That's an unfair assumption because the great majority of the city's workers are excellent people. Most would bend over backwards for the good of the community. Some of them work at all hours when crisis calls.

For the sake of preserving the integrity of the city's workforce - not to mention the taxpayers' money - a full, public investigation is in order. We need to get to the bottom of whether this is a case of a few bad apples or a mismanaged orchard.

The taxpayers deserve to know their dollars are being carefully spent and that they can fully trust those holding the purse strings.