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WASTE WATCH: GPS Trackers in Columbus City Cars

COLUMBUS (Brooks Jarosz) -- The City of Columbus has already spent nearly $1M of your money to make sure city workers are actually working.

2,500 city trucks have GPS trackers to document speed, route and travel times. ABC 6 Investigators set out to check what the system caught and what it didnt. That system has been installed in most city trucks for at least a year. We spent months digging through records and found cases of employees caught not following the rules.

However, even with the GPS, we caught workers who appear to have found other loopholes and look to be killing time day after day.

Integrity really comes into play, city Division of Refuse employee Chris Thornton said. When we were first made aware the systems were going to be put in the trucks, a lot of questions arose.

Wired in most city cars and trucks is a small black box costing roughly $200 plus a monthly $30 subscription fee per vehicle. Managers are able to zero in on their employees speed, idling and travel routes.

It does a very good job of tracking vehicles, manager David Hupp with Department of Public Utilities said. Its money well spent.

ABC 6 Investigators poured through the paperwork looking at hundreds of GPS documents generated from city vehicles in the Departments of Public Utilities and Public Service. We found in one case, an employee was in such a hurry, the GPS showed he was traveling at more than 80 miles-per-hour along East Broad Street in a 50 miles-per-hour zone. In another case, we uncovered a driver caught speeding in a 35 zone along Smokey Row Road, going more than 60 miles-per-hour.

The city says its a supervisors responsibility to track, watch and hold employees accountable. All workers, according to case files, were either counseled or suspended.

As long as youre doing the right thing at the right time, you shouldnt have anything to worry about, Thornton said.

Chris Thornton knows taking out the trash means having safety and efficiency top of mind. But a tip to our ABC 6 Waste Watch Tip Line took us to an eastside city lot along Fairwood Avenue, where behavior was questionable.

ABC 6 Investigators discovered some workers have found an apparent work-around. Day one we see a recreation and parks employee sitting in his truck in the back of the lot. Within minutes it appears hes lighting up and blowing smoke. Five minutes later, we see him waving to his buddies who also park in the pack of the lot and sit.

We showed the video to the Director of Recreation and Parks.

Is smoking allowed in city trucks? ABC 6 Investigator Brooks Jarosz asked.

No, responded Director of Recreation and Parks Alan McKnight.

Is this acceptable behavior, Jarosz responded.

No, this is not acceptable behavior, McKnight said. I cant be everywhere. The supervisors cant be everywhere.

Day two of our investigation we find the workers actually working but not for long. Within minutes, they pack up and we spot the trucks back in the rear of the lot. The same employee we saw the day before is in his spot smoking, sitting and pouring out his coffee.

Columbus city workers typically get two, short 15 minute breaks and a half hour lunch break, however, our cameras captured the same worker apparently milking the clock three days in a row for nearly an hour.

Records obtained by ABC 6 Investigators show the majority of city workers are doing their jobs. And, the citys investment in the GPS trackers is paying off.

I think its a tool, McKnight said. I think it helps.

Everyones kind of become accustom to them and its kind of become second nature, Thornton said.

This system, managers say is forcing increased awareness with less accidents, less speeding and holding employees accountable. But Big Brother is not everywhere leaving some responsibility up to the workers on the street.

The Department of Recreation and Parks is looking into what we uncovered. It is not known what action, if any, will be taken against the employees in question.

If you have a tip for Brooks Jarosz and the ABC 6 Investigators call 614-255-NEWS or email

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