IG: Lax supervision of OGS employees leads to drinking, watching - NEWS10 ABC: Albany, New York News, Weather, Sports

IG: Lax supervision of OGS employees leads to drinking, watching TV on the job

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The Office of General Services, Sheridan Avenue Steam Plant in Albany (NEWS10) The Office of General Services, Sheridan Avenue Steam Plant in Albany (NEWS10)
An OGS employee sets up an antenna during an unauthorized break to watch TV on the job. An OGS employee sets up an antenna during an unauthorized break to watch TV on the job.
An OGS employee is seen taking an unauthorized break to watch TV on the job. An OGS employee is seen taking an unauthorized break to watch TV on the job.

ALBANY, N.Y. - The New York State Inspector General says they have found a lack of supervision has led to Office of General Services employees to drinking on the job and watching Dancing with the Stars while on work time, all released in a 13-page report on Monday.

Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott's report concluded "inappropriate behavior and abuse of state resources" involving nine OGS employees, including some supervisors, who work at the Sheridan Avenue Steam Plant in Albany.

The report states that "lax supervision and a culture of permissiveness" led to on-the-job drinking, the use of unauthorized staff break rooms with a television, the display of inappropriate pictures on facility walls, bedrolls and beer cans in the plant, and a plant engineer watching hours of the television show, Dancing with the Stars while on work time.

This conduct occurred despite a 2009 Inspector General report, which described a hidden lounge in the Empire State Plaza East Garage. This prior unauthorized break room, which the IG said had couches, a TV, and scales to weigh marijuana, was created and occupied by two OGS employees who were ultimately convicted of defrauding the government.

The IG attributed the 2009 incident to the lack of supervision and inspections, and made significant recommendations to OGS to greatly improve oversight of staff and operations. However, Monday's report found similar deficient management responsible for both the improper work environment and staff misconduct. 

The IG's office was alerted to the recent inappropriate behavior by the Mechanicville Police Department, who pulled over an OGS employee Daniel Jackson for driving while intoxicated in 2011. Authorities say his BAC was .26 percent, more than three times the legal limit, and Jackson admitted to drinking on the job. The Mechanicville Police Chief says that left him concerned and so he faxed the police report to the IG's office.

The Inspector General's investigation confirmed a continued, rampant lack of supervision, finding the following examples:

In 2011, Jackson worked as a Plant Utilities Engineer at the plant while under the influence of alcohol. Because his responsibilities included maintaining gas-powered boilers, he exposed thousands to potential catastrophe by working while intoxicated. The IG claims two of Jackson's supervisors were aware of his condition but took no corrective action.

Prior to that, the IG says Plant Utilities Engineer Anthony Isgro, who was plant manager in 2010, admitted that he was aware of the presence of bedrolls and beer cans at the plant. He testified that he had discussions with Jackson's supervisors, Michael Pranchak work conditions.

In addition, during an unscheduled plant tour, the IG found several unauthorized break rooms, cigarette butts inside the facility, and inappropriate photographs and depictions of women. 

The IG says despite recommendations in 2009 that inspections be conducted, neither Director of Albany Utilities Division Robert Lobdell nor his supervisor Director of Facilities Management and Operations Martin Gilroy – who was directly involved in the mismanagement that occurred in 2009 – conducted the required bi-monthly tours on a regular basis.

The IG's report says that management allowed significant time abuse by Boyd Bonner, a Plant Utilities Engineer, who supposedly brought into work a TV with a 15-foot tall antenna, a chair and portable power generator so he could watch Dancing with the Stars for significant periods of his shift.

Bonner constructed this entertainment center in an enclosed parking deck at the plant. Security cameras confirmed that one night Bonner watched an entire two-hour show.

Plant Utilities Engineer/Shift Supervisor William Tatro can be seen on video tape walking past Bonner, but taking no action. Tatro told the Inspector General's office that he did not take steps to discipline Bonner because he was not Bonner's regular supervisor.

After a referral from the Inspector General, OGS commenced discipline against seven of the employees named in the report resulting in the following actions: Lobdell was fined $13,212 – equivalent to 30 days' pay; Mannarino was fined  $8,100 – equivalent to 25 days' pay; Potter was fined  $3,944 – equivalent to 14 days' pay; Pranchak was fined $2,240 – equivalent to 10 days' pay; Tatro was fined $228 – equivalent to one day's pay; and  Jackson was fined $3,160 and placed on a two-year probationary period, with required random drug and alcohol testing.  Any further misconduct by Jackson or failure to pass a blood test will result in immediate termination. Both Bonner and Gilroy retired in April 2012 in the face of discipline.

The Sheridan Avenue Steam Plant, operated by OGS, produces steam for heating and cooling of the Empire State Plaza. It includes natural gas boilers and gasoline powered backup generators, and is the largest consumer of natural gas in the northeastern United States.  The facility operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

As a result of the Inspector General's investigation, OGS has commenced the process of implementing the following recommendations by the Inspector General:

  • OGS management will conduct tours of its facilities statewide, consistent with the Inspector General's recommendations, and subsequent OGS management directives. 
  • Bi-monthly tours will be conducted during every shift.  Detailed reports will include every area inspected with both positive and negative findings. 
  • Tour reports will be forwarded to supervisors and executive management, as well as to human resources.
  • All tour reports will be provided to the Inspector General for oversight and monitoring.
  • All supervisory personnel will undergo supervisory training.
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