by Phil Keren
Silver Lake -- Mayor Bernie Hovey has banned employees from making or receiving personal calls on village-issued cell phones.
"I think that village money should be spent on village business," said Hovey, who is having his department leaders monitor phone bills for personal calls. "And personal phone calls are not village business."
The village's employee handbook states, "Personal use [of cell phones] is discouraged, however, it is occasionally inevitable."
Hovey is adding language in the employee handbook to state, "Cell phones may not be used for personal use," and "Designated employees will use cellular phones and pagers for village business only." The word "only" has been added to that sentence as part of the new policy.
He also added verbiage stipulating, "Employees may take advantage of any discounts offered by cell phone providers to public-sector employees."
Hovey told Council earlier this month that this change as well as other amendments to the employee handbook will be made this year.
"I really don't think there's abuse [of the cell phones]," said Hovey, who added he "thinks [the change is] good policy."
Hovey also is deleting language that allows an employee to be reimbursed for making a business call on a personal cell phone.
"I don't want them [the employees] to have to make that decision," said Hovey. "I want them to use either the land line phone or the village issued phone [for business calls]."
According to Teresa Spohn, the village's clerk-treasurer, the police department spends about $450 a month for its cell phones, while the service department expends about $90 per month for its phones. Hovey said he does not know how much of those charges are tied to personal calls.
Hovey said though he does not think the new policy will result in "a big cost savings," he said it represents how he wants village employees to use village property.
"I would want them to think long and hard before they use it for personal use," said Hovey.
Hovey said the police department has nine cellular phones, while the service department has three and he received one, but returned it less than a month after he took over as mayor last year.
If residents want to reach a village employee, Hovey said he thinks they should call Village Hall first. During weekends and after hours, Hovey said he is comfortable with residents calling employees on the cell phones "because I don't think the residents abuse it."
If an employee has to use the village-issued cell phone for an urgent personal call, "they will not be in trouble with me," said Hovey, who added abuse of the cell phone policy will be addressed.
Department leaders share opinions on policy
Village Service Director Dick Fenwick said he stopped service on his village-issued cell phone and purchased his own cell phone for use on the job. He added the personal cell phone will have the same number as the village-issued cell phone he had.
Fenwick said he takes the cell phone home and on vacation, and noted residents call him on the phone at home on village business.
"That's a valuable service that I would hate for the residents to lose," said Fenwick.
Fenwick said he does not think there has been abuse of the phones by his employees, but noted he made and accepted personal calls on his village-issued cell phone when he had it. He added he will abide by the policy implemented by Hovey.
At a Council meeting last month, Village Police Chief Gary DeMoss said his department is a "24/7" operation, and said he believes "there's not been any abuse" of the cell phones by members of his department.
"[When] an officer is tied up on a crash and is going to be late going home, he calls his wife to say 'I'm going to be late ...' Is that abuse? I don't think it is," said DeMoss.
DeMoss said this week he felt the new policy "could harm our communication" with officers who are off duty.
"We've lost some of that motivation to have that phone with you [the officer] on a continuum," said DeMoss.
DeMoss said all eight full-time officers have village-issued cell phones and added a majority have their own personal cell phones. He noted several department members carry two cell phones now. According to DeMoss, the officers are "often working alone," and may find themselves in a situation where they need to contact a supervisor through the cell phone.
DeMoss said one of his officers has two lines on the same village-issued cell phone, one for business use and the other for personal use. The officer pays his own bill for the personal use line. The chief said he has asked Hovey to consider allowing the two lines on all village-issued cell phones and said allowing that "solves the problem of carrying two phones."