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Review of County Cell Phones Reveals Costs for Taxpayers are Rising

Buffalo, NY (WBEN) - A new audit by Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw is taking aim at the use of County cell phones.

The Comptroller's audit found that the number of devices being used by county employees has been on the rise, and so have costs.

Mychajliw says that in 2012, the county had 412 wireless devices. By June of 2013 that number was up to 490.

"We need to make sure that taxpayer dollars are respected pertaining to the use of cell phones across Erie County," Mychajliw said. The Comptroller says that no one who works in his department, including himself, is permitted to use a County cell phone.

In one instance, Mychajliw says that an employee in the Department of Probation used a county cell phone to download 40 ringtones at the cost of $102.89 in a single day.

"We also saw that there was significant roaming and other miscellaneous charges to the tune of $40,000 across the county. Those people with county cell phones need to be mindful of those who foot the bills, and that's the taxpayer."

Despite smartphone technology changing by the week, Mychajliw says that many policies regarding their use haven't been changed since 2001, though he notes that the county may now be working to change those guidelines.

Erie County does not have control over which wireless carrier they use or the cost of the plans, both are negotiated by the State. Mychajliw however, notes that the county does have complete control over how many devices are given out.

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