So let me get this straight: a city worker embezzled $1200 from our parking meters and we're going to spend $103,992 to fix it and another $24,768 a year to collect cash deposits for the department? If my math is correct--and it is--that's $155,760 plus the nearly $25,000 a year to collect the funds. And we have so much more money now that we're charging for another day and three more hours each of those days as well. The Savannah City Council got the "heads-up" from the staff that the city had entered into this "emergency contract" with Loomis/Safepoint to purchase eight (8) drop-box systems for Mobility and Parking Services. That was the $103-grand part and the $25K part was the annual cash collection for the department.
So City Manager Rob Hernandez says the city's internal auditing department recommended the upgrade because one of our supervisors with parking services, Ashley Swindell, got fired on the fifth of June for stealing $1200 from a deposit bag. Swindell has been charged by Savannah Police with two counts of felony theft by taking after an investigation that was initially reported on May 25th. Why in this day and age people think they can get away with this is beyond comprehension but she gave it a shot. Hernandez said we needed to move ahead quickly (something government is certainly not used to) with this program and, as we know, it's only money and we taxpayers are bottomless pits.
Eric Curl's story in the August 6th edition of the Savannah Morning News pointed out that the "installation of the deposit boxes ($103,992) and the use of the collection service ($24,768) is expected to minimize the city's liability when dealing with cash handling." Well for this kind of "dough" I certainly hope so! This expense from a city that says it is dropping Crimestoppers from the budget. Ridiculous! As far as Swindell's case is concerned, she's been bound over to Chatham County Superior Court and awaiting assignment to a judge.
Meanwhile, one would think that regular audits and making Swindell an example will keep workers in line. City spokesperson Michelle Gavin said the investigation is on-going and the city has told us all they know so far. What do you think? Money well spent or over-reaction?