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Countywide Focus

Koester to Review County's Phone Use

February 28, 1996|KENNETH R. WEISS

Reacting to a complaint that the number of cellular phones used by county workers has tripled in the last four years, Ventura County's top administrator on Tuesday pledged to review the county government's phone bills and policies.

"I will work with the auditor-controller to ensure that there is appropriate accounting and payback for personal calls," county chief administrator Lin Koester told the County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

He also said he would offer the supervisors suggested changes in the county's policies on the use of cellular telephones, if warranted.

Koester was reacting to questions raised by retired airline pilot and government critic Don Hollingsworth about the proliferation of cellular phones throughout the county bureaucracy.

County workers now operate 523 cellular phones, costing taxpayers $334,000 in the past year. That's more than a threefold jump from the 161 that county workers had in 1992. Most of the phones are operated by sheriff's deputies and other public safety officials.

"Many of these phones are put to good use," Hollingsworth told county supervisors on Tuesday. "But there may be some abuse."

He questioned whether county employees actually reimburse the government for personal calls made on cellular phones and what safeguards are in the system. Under current county policy, each agency or department is responsible for checking phone logs to hold employees accountable for the expenses of personal calls.

Hollingsworth also questioned a $724 monthly bill of one portable phone--the highest single expense on the county's January cellular telephone bill.

Sheriff's Chief Deputy Richard Rodriguez said that cell phone was stolen from a car in late December.

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