City Investigates Alleged Misuse Of City Cell Phones, PDAs

PHILADELPHIA -- City officials are asking questions about the possible misuse of city cell phones and BlackBerrys.

The worse part is it may be you who is footing the bill, according to an exclusive report by the NBC 10 Investigators' Harry Hairston.

The mayor's office told NBC 10 that an investigation is under way.

City hall sources said the investigation centers around a female city employee with 24 years on the job. The employee worked for the Department of Public Property and helped to purchase and pay for city cell phones.

Those sources said the allegations are that the woman, ordered extra cell phones and BlackBerrys, provided them to her friends and other city employees and pocketed the cash.

The woman refused Friday to talk to NBC 10. Her husband told Hairston that he's aware his wife is under investigation, but the allegations are false.

Sources said police and the Philadelphia inspector general's office are both investigating.

Doug Oliver, the mayor's press secretary, said, "We are aware of the investigation. However the investigation is ongoing and still in the early stages. Therefore we can not comment in detail at this time."

City Controller Alan Butkovitz said he is not surprised by the allegations. He audited the city's cell phone policies and usage last fall.

"The records, with regard to assignment of phones and location of phones, were a mess," he said.

Butkovitz said a significant number of city cell phones appeared to be missing.

"One out of five phones couldn't be located where it was suppose to be, and half of the records were inaccurate in some respect," he said.

Butkovitz said the poor recordkeeping can be costly to taxpayers.

"That's an invitation to theft, abuse -- the type of conduct that's been uncovered by you in this particular case," Butkovitz told Hairston.

So far, no charges have been filed in the case. City officials said the woman is still an employee but is out on disability.

Of course, the NBC 10 Investigators will stay on top of this story and bring you the latest developments.

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