City outlines plan to fix Fleet Services

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - What happened inside the Memphis Fleet Services' lot over the last five years has prompted two City of Memphis audits, a State of Tennessee review and an FBI investigation.  City administration now pledged to clean up the previous administration's mess.

Former Memphis City Chief Administration Officer Rick Masson has a mountain to climb.

"My focus is to stabilize the situation and provide him with a roadmap," Masson said.

The City of Memphis hired Masson to fix Fleet Services.

"It's all about accountability," Masson said.  "There's a lack of accountability there."

Two city audits uncovered problem after problem over the past five years, including $700,000 of underreported taxpayer dollars that cannot be found in Fleet Services' records.

A Fleet Services supervisor who owns a Cadillac Escalade used taxpayer money to buy parts for his vehicle.  That same employee bought three flat-screen TVs through an auto parts vendor.

Payments to an auto vendor totaled $37,000 to dry documents damaged in a flood, then an extra $9,000 to another company to finish the job.

Payments to city contractor Around Town Tire and Trucking quadrupled to $1.1 million.  Around Town's office turned out to be a vacant lot.  Employees confirmed Around Town actually worked out of the city's Fleet Services office and many of their employees are also city employees.

Around Town also used rims, tires, tools and equipment paid for by city taxpayers for their private business, while at the same time double-billing the city for tire repair.

The tires Around Town recycled were not the same brand the city bought, and checks were hand-delivered to Around Town through a local liquor store.

"Almost half of those had to do with oversight, which is a people issue for the most part," Masson said.  "Sometimes it's the system, but mostly, this is a people issue."

To give Fleet Services a complete overhaul, the city plans to create a tracking code system to include the date tires are bought mounted and installed.  They plan to develop a system to track repaired tires and hire mechanic helpers at $12 per hour to cut costs.  The city will also seek recovery of overpayments to Around Town.

Masson had a word for employees with inside information.

"If they step forward now, that's one thing," Masson said.  "If they wait, that's another thing."

The Tennessee Department of Commerce is checking why Around Town's income statements do not match what the city paid them.

The city omitted criminal statements from their public audit so they would not overstep the FBI investigation.

Fleet Services is under the umbrella of the General Services Division.  The overhaul of the entire division will take place over the next three months.

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