At the last city council meeting Jasper Mayor John Weaver threw the word entitlement around in reference to the sense people get when they’re employed by the city. But is that the pot calling the kettle black? At the most recent city council meeting February 3, Weaver insisted that the council approve a contract with Fleetmatics for a GPS system to monitor city vehicle usage.
The gist is Weaver met with the company independently and did not notify the city council ahead of time that it would be faced with a decision on whether to proceed with an $89,000 contract; one which he insisted must have immediate action as he’d already scheduled the installation of the equipment within two days after the meeting. Councilwoman Allison Brown asked about the possibility of postponing it until the council could conduct research but Weaver was insistent. He stated this was excess equipment the company had that would be gone if they didn’t act immediately, in addition to the company waiving the installation fee which would be re-instated as well as the monthly monitoring costs would increase.
Under this contract the city would pay nearly $2500 per month for GPS services to monitor their equipment and the contract over the three year obligation adds up to $89,936.73.
Weaver stated this effort wasn’t in an attempt to “snoop” into employees’ time but then several times throughout the meeting made references to employees getting donuts, GPS cutting into their leisure time and how he would be notified if someone was out of their vehicle too long. This leads to another question.
In most municipalities, and admittedly so in this case by Weaver, there is a tiered system in which employee supervision is handled. Generally the mayor and council are at the apex, with department heads next, then supervisors, etc. In this instance, Weaver stated that notifications from the GPS system would go to him and he would notify supervisors of disciplinary actions to be taken against employees rather than being a step removed as he stated himself was the city’s policy.
Why does Weaver feel the need to supersede his own supervisory staff?
Weaver cited well-known facts regarding tracking systems: increased efficiency, increased production, worker safety, financial saving benefits. The general consensus of research is it’s a great tool. Councilmember John Foust said several times that safety was a paramount concern that would be addressed. If someone were injured on the job and weren’t near a phone, the GPS would notify the city that employee hasn’t checked in or moved from an area for a time which could send rescue their way.
But the overriding question is, were the mayor’s actions legal by the City of Jasper charter?
Taking into account the mayor’s dual roles as mayor and city manager, the city charter lists these rules:
Under mayor’s duties:
(5) Executing legal documents. To sign and execute all contracts, deeds, and bonds of the city duly authorized by the mayor and council;
Under City manager’s duties:
(12) Examine all proposed contracts to which the city may be a party, and sign on behalf of the city any contract authorized by the city council excepting where the council directs that some other officer shall do so;
(14) Make all purchases of supplies, material, and equipment for the city and see that the same are received as contracted for, provided that if a purchase in excess of $5,000.00 is involved, prior approval of city council shall be necessary and opportunity for competitive bids shall be given after reasonable advertisement thereof;
In all instances the city council is to be made privy and vote on issues/proposals. Under number 12 the city council may direct an officer to sign but only at their discretion. In number 14, it clearly states that bids are a requirement of which there were none. The mayor admits that he met with this company and unilaterally decided this was the option for the city.
In addition, FYN has obtained a copy of the contract which Weaver signed January 30. The contract wasn’t approved by the council until their meeting February 3.
FYN has been trying to obtain answers from various city officials including city council without result. FYN submitted the following questions to Mayor Weaver without response.
If the system proves not to be what it was advertised, what are your avenues of relief?
Will you have exclusive administrative privileges over the GPS system or will others? If so, who?
Will your department heads have the ability to monitor and reprimand employees for misuses or will that come from you and filter down to them? If so, why?
Will there be a unit installed on your taxpayer-bought vehicle and why not if not. If so, who will monitor it?
You stated that if someone is out of their vehicle too long it will “ding” the monitoring party(ies), monitor gas usage, etc. Then you stated there are differing plans which provide different services. Which plan did the city purchase and what capabilities are included?
FYN will follow this story and will update as more information is discovered and continue to seek answers to questions regarding the legality and purpose of this contract. Attached is a video of the portion of the meeting pertaining to this contract for the public to watch themselves.