By RICK NEALE
VIERA, Fla. - Twelve full-time county mosquito control workers remain on probation for "loafing" on the clock, falsifying records, misusing county vehicles and violating other policies - caught by previously installed truck GPS trackers - disciplinary records show.
A citizen's complaint triggered an eight-month investigation in which officials cross-referenced GPS data with daily employee inspection records, Director Craig Simmons said.
As a result of the investigation, three mosquito control workers also were fired.
"With the fiscal position the county government's in, with pending layoffs, we couldn't fathom why employees would choose to do something like this when we have the ability to track them," Simmons said.
Spray-truck personnel are typically unsupervised about seven hours a day, Simmons said. Each week, they inspect about 8,000 mosquito-prone sites across 86 geographic spray zones in Brevard County.
The GPS investigation examined on-the-clock activities during a seven-week span from August to September 2009. Disciplinary letters reveal details about the terminated workers' alleged misdeeds during that timeframe:
- A technician made 20 unauthorized trips to the Port St. John Public Library and drove home 78 times.
- An inspector/sprayer drove home 51 times (totaling 50 hours and 3 minutes) and over-extended lunch breaks by 28 hours. During a pre-disciplinary hearing, the worker said he never thought it was a problem, he had paid his dues and deserved a break, and this is how he had done it the last 13-1/2 years, records show.
- An inspector/sprayer drove home 85 times (totaling 60 hours and 20 minutes) and over-extended lunch breaks by 22 hours. Moreover, GPS records revealed he visited his child's school 22 times, drove to a shopping center 18 times, and traveled to Indian River County to go to the bank.
"The choices of some employees, quite frankly, dumbfounded management," Simmons said.
Simmons said mosquito-spraying efforts were not affected by the workers' unauthorized activities, and no laws were broken. He said employees knew that their trucks carried GPS transmitters.
He said he had no idea how long his field workers were violating departmental policies - in fact, he said he did not believe the investigation's initial GPS findings.
Managers now conduct random GPS checks of truck operators' activities, said Mike Brown, north area supervisor. He said no problems have surfaced since the June disciplinary actions.
"It's very labor-intensive, but we now know it's something we've got to do," Brown said.