The Investigators: Men NOT At Work - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

The Investigators: Men NOT At Work

**UPDATE: Andy Wise has learned the men he caught on camera in this report have been fired.  Read the new story, click here.

(WMC TV) - The Memphis city public works director has relieved two city code inspectors of duty and suspended them with pay after The Action News 5 Investigators ran video surveillance of the inspectors hiding out for days inside their city vehicles.

The city has administratively charged 6-year veteran Inspector Burnie Mitchell and 5-year Inspector John Finley with neglect of duty, being out of their inspection area and not responding to their assignments.

"This has been going on for months," said a Frayser business owner who alerted The Action News 5 Investigators to the inspectors' behavior and who asked not to be identified.

He said for days on end, Inspectors Mitchell and Finley would park their marked code enforcement sedans at the dead-end of Hindman Ave. near Steele St. The location is in a neighborhood west of Watkins St.

Typically, Mitchell would show up around 12:30 p.m., stay for a half-hour or an hour, then leave, he said. Then Mitchell would return sometime after 2:00 p.m. Finley would join him within 20 minutes, then they would stay until 3:30 p.m. or 3:45 p.m., he said.

After The Action News 5 Investigators spotted both inspectors inside their vehicles on Hindman Ave. July 26, we conducted hidden camera and Chopper 5 surveillance of the area July 30 through Aug. 2. 

Like clockwork, the inspectors would show up in their city vehicles just as our tip described. Every day, they would sit for hours, talking. Occasionally, one of them would exit his vehicle to urinate or stretch his legs.

"These guys are sitting down here for hours upon hours, just (talking), napping, doing whatever they're doing," said the unidentified tipster.

"Just about every day, they are down there," said Henry Allen, a 20-year resident of the neighborhood who said he watches the inspectors pass his house on Steele St. daily to kick back on Hindman Ave.

After presenting our surveillance footage to the city's public works and human resources managers, Division of Public Works Director Dwan Gilliom said his staff reviewed Mitchell's and Finley's daily task logs, reports and check-in's with emergency management dispatchers.

He said the records indicated neither inspector was where he was supposed to be on the days we captured them on video.

"When you factor all that in, it just doesn't look really good for these two inspectors at this point," said Gilliom.

Code enforcement manager Otis Tidwell said both inspectors ignored an inspection assignment Aug. 1. At the time of their assignment, Chopper 5 documented both inspectors parked side-by-side, carrying on a conversation through their driver's side windows at the Hindman Ave. dead-end.

Gilliom said the city leveled its charges on the inspectors during an administrative hearing Aug. 10. He said through their union representative, the inspectors claimed they had permission from a senior inspector with no management authority to stand down in the Frayser neighborhood.

"That didn't wash with me at all," said Gilliom. "The options that they have left with the management team, at this particular point, are limited."

As code inspectors, Mitchell and Finley are supposed to be answering citizens' complaints about blighted properties and inspecting both private and public facilities for building code violations.

One of the inspectors, whom we could not identify, refused to stop his city vehicle to answer our questions when we confronted him. A phone number listed for Mitchell was disconnected. A message left on Finley's voice mail was ignored.

We requested the inspectors' written statement to the administrative hearing from their union representative, Havier Smith.

"We refrain from releasing any evidence at this time since this matter is still under investigation," said Smith, deputy administrator of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Local 1733. "At this time, neither of them will have any comment."

"Personally, I think they should lose their job," said the Frayser business owner. "There are a lot of good people in this city who would love to have their job, who'd love to have half the benefits they have being city employees."

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