FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) — Are city employees being told to do work related to the Red River trash company on city time?
Late last month, Mayor Henry announced street department employees could volunteer for overtime paid by Red Rriver to pick up missed trash collections.
But is more going on?
“This is supposed to be billed back to Red River, but I’m doing it on city time,” Jeff Tipton says.
Tipton says he’s worked for the Fort Wayne street department for 37 years.
He volunteers to get overtime paid by Red River to use parks department garbage trucks to collect trash that Red River misses.
But he’s supposed to get time and a half for those duties, starting when he’s off the city clock at 2:30.
But we caught up with him at the landfill after emptying one of those garbage trucks at about 1:30, when he says he was supposed to be doing city work, not anything related to Red River.
“They came to me, the street commissioner, and he told me to go take the garbage truck, the Park Department garbage truck, which was full, and go empty it. On city time,” Tipton says.
“Do city employees ever do Red River-related business on the clock? No, no, they do not… What about emptying the trucks? They empty the trucks just before they go to pick them up,” Shan Gunawardena says.
Gunawardena is the director of Fort Wayne’s public works department.
“If they’re working on their own tasks, they shouldn’t be doing solid waste removal activities at that time,” he says.
Tipton says he was in the middle of running the loader for the city’s asphalt plant when his supervisor told him to empty the garbage truck at the dump.
He is concerned that the work he’s supposed to be doing at the street department is piling up.
“When I got back today, there was five loads of stone, maybe more than five loads of stone today,” Tipton says.
Gunawardena says street department supervisors do have discretion to tell employees to do something if they have down time.
“The supervisors recognize that these are their employees. They work for them for eight hours of the day, and during those eight hours they are supposed to be doing street department work. We don’t want to hamper any street department operations because of this… But they should not be removed from whatever they’re supposed to be doing? Absolutely not. And if they are? That would be a breakdown in protocols, so we’ll have to have a conversation about that,” he says.
Tipton says street department supervisors have taught younger employees with less experience who didn’t volunteer for Red River overtime how to empty the garbage trucks so they can do it during their work days.
Since we started asking questions, the city called back saying supervisors have now been told that city employees are not to do any Red River-related work until they finish their work day for the city at 2:30.