Profitable side projects, friendly favors: Why city workers got canned
Street projects for a church, cemetery and even private homes and businesses – all done with with money from Tucson taxpayers.Photo: Video by kgun9.com
Reporter: Claire Doan
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) – Street projects for a church, cemetery and even private homes and businesses – all done with money from Tucson taxpayers. City officials released documents detailing the reasons why they sent termination letters to five employees in the Department of Transportation.
They are: Kurt Hough, administrator, who resigned in lieu of termination; Robert Palomarez, equipment operator specialist, who resigned in lieu of termination; Fred Gardillas, street maintenance supervisor, who retired in lieu of termination; Dan Carpenter, equipment operator specialist who was terminated; and Fernando Martinez, heavy equipment operator, who was terminated.
Nearly a year of investigative work with over 200 interviews culminated in the firings, with the misconduct adding up to over $100,000 in government manpower, resources and equipment.
“To have city resources being used for public benefit certainly makes their conduct especially bad,” said City Attorney Mike Rankin, who mentioned that the wrongdoing dates back to 2006 and occurred when city leaders had to make drastic budget cuts.
Documents show Hough ordered construction of a bike pad at Park and Ajo for his “motorcycle buddies,” costing taxpayers $7,883. Someone wanted a BMX bike track, so Hough ordered about 20 tons of dirt to be hauled to a home, using city equipment. Potholes on private property? He directed crews to take care of that too.
Others, like Martinez, worked side jobs using city equipment while on the clock. Many follow procedures in filling out time cards. Documents also show Palomarez graded and chipped roads at Evergreen Cemetery, costing the city about $17,000.
New Transportation Director Daryl Cole said the city is trying to fix things as soon as possible: “Those who shouldn’t be here – we’re letting them go their way. Those that need to be discussed with – we’ll deal with those and start the healing process.”
The documents also mention a hostile work environment and fear of retaliation. Cole said that is one of the areas he is addressing.
“That has to be the first thing we do and I’ve been out to several of the folks and talked to them already. We expected [them] to come forward. In fact, [they] have a duty and responsibility to come forward,” Cole said.
This isn’t over. More employees are expected to be disciplined down the line.