PDT Staff Writer
Everyone who has been following the story concerning Mayor David Malone’s use of a piece of city equipment for work on his personal property probably has an opinion on the subject. Some people will probably feel that it is OK when some city employee needs to cut some wood at home, that he just takes home a chainsaw paid for by taxpayers, and use it. Others are opposed to such activity because many times in both private and government jobs, it is absolutely prohibited.
In this instance it is not prohibited. The question is - should it be prohibited? And that is for the city government to consider.
What I find disturbing about the entire situation is something in one of the e-mails sent out by Malone. It’s a phrase that, if you aren’t careful you will miss.
“I have not done anything that I have not allowed others to do. In each instance, although undocumented, we were sure to protect the city from any liability whatsoever should there have been any damage and/or loss.”
That’s right, it appears there are no checks and balances in place in the operation of the city and that includes the use of equipment which belongs to the city, paid for by taxpayers, and no actual documentation. So if I take home a piece of equipment and break it, I just bring it back in and put it away, and someone will notice it is not functional, with no ramifications for me. Does this make sense to anyone?
I used to say one of the reasons the people of Portsmouth wouldn’t give the city any more money than it had to was the dysfunctional state that exists in the city. I can’t say that any longer. The voters proved me wrong by giving them more of their hard-earned money, which can be used to purchase equipment that employees can take home and utilize. Meanwhile, that same taxpayer has to fork out more money from his or her own pocket to buy or rent that same equipment if he or she has a project on private property.
I think it would be interesting to see what would happen if a lot of these taxpayers began showing up on the city’s doorstep and asking to use equipment they paid for. I am betting the same rules, just like all of the rest of the government/private issues, do not apply. I would say you would not be allowed to borrow a piece of equipment owned by the city. I am trying to find out on which level that makes any sense at all.
I am also amazed that there has been very little response from members of Portsmouth City Council, at least in public. They could be doing so behind closed doors, but so far only First Ward Councilman Kevin W. Johnson has expressed his outrage where the taxpayers could see it.
There is an arrogance in government these days that is unprecedented. From Washington to Portsmouth, the prevailing attitude is that there are two sets of rules - one for the taxpayers, and one for those who get paid by those taxpayers, and I’m not talking about the worker. I’m talking about our elected officials. Elitism is rampant, and instances like the private use of city property is just the latest example.
Just like the lady who protested not having her garbage picked up by pouring it onto the floor of the mayor’s office, maybe it’s time we all started showing up at the city asking to use a piece of equipment. I’m betting two days of that, and we would see the rules changed and enforced - something that should have happened before the citizens were forced to take action.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT