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ROAD DEPARTMENT

BACKGROUND

The Public Works Agency (PWA) is responsible for the maintenance of the County's 410 miles of roads. This work is done by two road crews whose duties include repairing, repaving, striping, and signing of the roads. In addition, they ensure proper drainage and control roadside vegetation. In winter, the road crews plow snow from County roads.

In September, 1999, allegations arose concerning certain activities of some members of the road crews. The allegations included drinking alcoholic beverages on the job, drinking at the Corporation Yard after work, use of County owned equipment for personal gain, an employee with a suspended driver's license operating a County vehicle on public roads, receiving gratuities from material vendors and illegal dumping of hazardous wastes.

Approximately three years ago, complaints were also made concerning alcohol consumption by some members of the road crews. At that time, the PWA Director investigated the charges but could find no evidence to substantiate them. Accordingly, no actions were taken.

Following the most recent assertions, the Board of Supervisors initiated an internal investigation to gather facts concerning the charges. The District Attorney's office was requested to assist in the investigation. Because the 1999-2000 Grand Jury had been reviewing the operations of the PWA, it voted to expand its review to include an evaluation of the allegations insofar as they reflect on management of the PWA. The County's internal administrative investigation has been concluded and certain disciplinary actions were taken. The District Attorney's investigation continues.

METHODOLOGY

Persons interviewed:

  1. PWA Director
  2. Deputy County Engineer
  3. Public Works Maintenance Superintendent
  4. PWA Administrative Support Supervisor
  5. Two Public Works Maintenance Supervisors
  6. Three employees of the road crews
  7. Board of Supervisors Public Works Committee
  8. Special ad-hoc committee of the Board of Supervisors
  9. District Attorney
  10. District Attorney Investigator
  11. County Administrative Director
  12. County Counsel

Documents examined:

  1. Transcripts of County interviews with road crew employees
  2. PWA job descriptions
  3. 1999-2000 Final County Budget
  4. Amador County Policy 2-300, "Alcohol-Free and Drug-Free Workplace"
  5. Amador County Policy 5-100, "Purchasing"

FACTS

  1. There are two road crews in the Road Department. Each crew consists of Public Works Maintenance Supervisor ( hereafter called "foreman"), a Public Works Lead Worker, and four or five workers.
  2. The foremen report directly to the Public Works Maintenance Superintendent, who in turn, reports to the PWA Director.
  3. The Public Works Maintenance Superintendent and the foremen meet every morning for daily instructions.
  4. The PWA has no written policies or procedure manuals governing the work of the road crews.
  5. As detailed in the section of the PWA review entitled, "Agency Organization and Management", Amador County Policy 5-100, "Purchasing", is not being followed.
  6. The Public Works Maintenance Superintendent, the two foremen, and several of the road crew employees have acknowledged consuming alcohol at the County Corporation Yard after work hours.
  7. A road crew employee, whose driver's license was suspended for DUI violations, was observed driving a County vehicle on public roads even though management was aware of his driving status and the PWA has a procedure in place to prevent such occurrences from happening.
  8. Both road crew foremen have admitted transporting alcoholic beverages in the County trucks assigned to them.
  9. The internal County administrative investigation has been completed. Only the allegations concerning drinking at the Corporation Yard after hours and an employee driving with a suspended license were substantiated.

CONCLUSIONS

  1. The current method of assigning work to the road crews lacks in planning and prioritizing. Work assignments are made daily on a mainly reactive basis, with little input from the PWA Director or Deputy County Engineer.
  2. Due to the lack of direct supervision, the Public Works Maintenance Superintendent has too much control over day-to-day activities.
  3. The working environment of the road department has become fraught with low morale, and distrust between employees and the relationship between management and employees is strained.
  4. Interviews have revealed that consumption of alcohol at the Corporation Yard after hours has been an on-going problem for a long period of time. The practice has been condoned by the Public Works Maintenance Superintendent, who, by the nature of his management position, should have set a better example for his subordinates.
  5. Long standing indications of the problem with drinking at the Corporation Yard did not attract a high level of concern or action by the PWA Director.
  6. The disregard by the Public Works Maintenance Superintendent for the County policy governing alcohol usage reveals either a lack of knowledge of County policies, or a misunderstanding of his role as a mid level manager.
  7. Consuming alcohol on County property, driving County vehicles following such drinking sessions, and transporting alcohol in County vehicles are not characteristics that should be exhibited by foremen. These actions are not only irresponsible, but they placed the County in danger of liability.
  8. Due to budget and staffing restraints, the road crews have reportedly taken "short-cuts" on some road maintenance tasks.
  9. The lack of written policies and procedures promotes an inconsistent and inefficient approach to maintenance and operations.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. As detailed in the section of the PWA review entitled "Agency Organization and Management", the PWA should be reorganized to eliminate the serious management and operational problems. Furthermore, the Public Works Maintenance Superintendent should be reassigned, whether the agency is reorganized or not.
  2. As detailed in the section of the PWA review entitled "Agency Organization and Management", the PWA should develop a management information system (MIS) to provide better control over day-to-day operations and make management more effective. Similarly, the County purchasing policy should be rewritten to provide control.
  3. Policies and procedures relating to road maintenance operations should be formalized to provide a standard approach.
  4. County Policy 2-300 should be reviewed and revised as necessary to ensure that County policies with respect to a drug-free and alcohol-free workplace are enforceable. Strict penalties for violation of the policy should be spelled out.
  5. The PWA Director should establish monitoring procedures to ensure that County policies are strictly observed by all employees.

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