Public Works Department under scrutiny

 

Hamilton’s pubic works department is being scrutinized once again, after a superintendent allegedly used tax dollars to buy items for her personal home. And this isn’t the first time that department is in the news.

This is yet another blow for public works, which is already dealing with employee morale issues stemming from the mass firing of pothole patchers, who were videotaped wasting time on the job.

All but six of the workers eventually got their jobs back and an arbitrator criticized the city for a culture of low expectations.

Now with this latest set back people are asking where’s the accountability.

While Hamilton police take over the investigation of alleged fraudulent purchasing by a superintendent in Hamilton’s public works department, the city is left answering the question how can someone spend tax dollars on personal patio furniture?

When a senior manager places an order under $10 000 they need to get one of their staffs signatures along with their own. But they don’t have to get another managers or councils approval to make that purchase.

“With a $1.5 billion corporation with tens of thousands of expenditures it would be too cumbersome to review each and every single expenditure.” says City Councillor Sam Merulla.

But Merulla says the city can still do more to stop this kind of behaviour.

“If one person has more than others when it comes to under $10 000e expenditures there should be a red flag.”

Larry Di Ianni is a former Hamilton Mayor.

“The system is responsible that it clearly articulates the need for good behaviour, promotes only those people who have that level of integrity and ethical standard and then it needs to monitor how they are doing.”

“We have aggressively pursued surveillance, investigations, audits to not only expose some of the past cultures that have existed but also to terminate them and move forward to a culture of the future.” says Merulla.

Public works is being reviewed with the possibility of splitting the large department. Merulla says the city is working to rebuild public trust in its leadership.

Mayor Fred Eisenberger would not comment on this matter because the topic was discussed in a closed door meeting at City Hall.