Villamagna says cell phone policy not being enforced

STEUBENVILLE – Sixth Ward Councilman Bob Villamagna said Tuesday the city administration is not enforcing an existing cell phone policy and said he expects answers.

Villamagna told City Council members and the city administration 13 city employees are assigned a cell phone that is paid for by the city.

“We reimbursed $5,654 a year for employee cell phones and several of those employees are in an office all day. We also have three city cell phones that were never turned in. One cell phone was never turned in. Another cell phone is registered to a deceased city employee. And a third cell phone was used to make a call to the city from the Caribbean. Was the city ever reimbursed for that call? I have never gotten a reply to my questions,” said Villamagna.

He made his comments near the end of Tuesday night’s four-hour meeting when council members can discuss issues.

“The city’s cell phone policy limiting cell phones was passed in Ordinance 2011-109. We are trying to tighten up our budget. The ordinance is clearly being violated. I am just trying to bring these things to light. We need to look at this because something is wrong here,” continued Villamagna.

City Manager Tim Boland asked Villamagna to meet with him today, “and I will have a report at next week’s council meeting on the cell phones. We need the best cell phone plan at the best cost for the city.”

Villamagna’s remarks drew a response from city resident Jacky Hines, who said council members should use discretion when speaking in front of the public.

“While I appreciate transparency, I implore the council to use discretion when speaking in front of the public. Why didn’t you discuss this with the city manager? The council is a professional body and I am not very happy because a lot of news interviews are coming across as negative. When you are speaking here you don’t always have to give us every morsel,” declared Hines.

“I went to the city manager and tried every avenue to settle this issue to no avail. And, as far as interviews I will talk to anyone I want to talk to. I am going to be transparent,” replied Villamagna.

Villamagna also questioned if a city-owned hot mix asphalt patching machine can be used to patch potholes on Lovers Lane.

“And the telephone at the City Hall reception desk is still not ringing at that desk. I don’t think I am asking too much. I would like the reception desk phone issue resolved so the woman sitting there can answer the phone calls instead of the calls going to department answering machines. I have talked to Dave Hindman and he is willing to change the phone system so it will work properly,” reported Villamagna.

City resident Fred Walsh said he has never seen the council so animated.

“I like what I hear here and I like what I see here. We all have your back,” Walsh told the council members.

Councilman at large Kenny Davis announced he is planning to meet with Mayor Domenick Mucci and Boland to put together policies and rules.

“We don’t need to drag all of our laundry into the public. We are all kind of new here and a lot of things we discuss are based on unwritten rules. As the councilman at large, I am prepared to work on this and I am also making a motion to establish consistent dates for our standing committee meetings. I believe a regular date for those standing committees will shorten the meetings as we move forward,” Davis said.