2 Metro Parks employees reprimanded over vehicle use, performanc - WSMV News 4

2 Metro Parks employees reprimanded over vehicle use, performance of duties

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Two Metro Parks employees were suspended after GPS trackers revealed where they were going in their Metro trucks during work hours.

For months, the Channel 4 I-Team has been asking questions what the employees were doing on Metro time.

In November, Metro Parks installed GPS devices in 10 vehicles in the maintenance division as “an efficiency device and a risk management tool,” according to assistant director Rick Taylor.

Through an open records request, the I-Team obtained GPS records for Kenneth Jones and Jepthy Harr over a five-week period.

The reports show the employees in various places that seemingly have nothing to do with Metro Parks.

On at least 15 different occasions during that time period, it’s unclear what Jones and Harr were doing while tax dollars paid their salaries.

Records placed the men at spots including their homes, the Metro Codes Office, and a construction site.

“When these people take advantage of their positions and are out there doing this type of stuff, I believe there’s a real problem,” said a current employee in the maintenance division who asked not to be identified.

This employee said he confronted his supervisor, Kenneth Jones, in 2014, after he suspected he wasn’t supervising, but instead conducting personal business on Metro time.

Jones is a licensed contractor. So is Jepthy Harr, who also works in the maintenance division.

Last October the employee emailed the division’s assistant director, Rick Taylor, and accused Harr of being a “double dipper.”

“Did you ever have the suspicion that these men were double dipping on the job?” asked reporter Alanna Autler.

“No,” said Taylor. “Never had that suspicion.”

Less than a month after the employee sent the email, several of Taylor’s workers found GPS devices in their trucks.

So the I-Team requested the first five weeks of available reports.

In many cases, Harr and Jones had visited official Parks property. But in that same time period, Jones went home on more than eight occasions on Metro time using his Metro truck for unapproved trips. One time, Jones even drove Harr’s truck home.

In total, Jones went home 11 times, but Taylor acknowledged three of those trips were “justified.”

On average, Jones stopped for roughly 10 minutes, which is far less time than it takes to actually drive to his home.

Where does he live? Twenty miles away from Metro Parks headquarters, in a house with a Mt. Juliet address. The property is still considered to be within Davidson County.

“Is driving 40 miles round trip in a Metro truck on Metro time ever a good use of taxpayer dollars?” Autler asked.

“No, it’s not,” Taylor said. “And again, that’s been addressed.”

On two occasions, Harr visited the Metro Codes building downtown, according to Taylor. The property is the place where contractors go to pull permits.

An investigation by Metro Parks later found Harr was “conducting personal business.”

Harr is in the process of re-zoning his home as a rental.

“Did he do it on company time? Yes. Was he supposed to? No. It’s been addressed through our corrective action process that we do,” Taylor said.

“We got one month on those GPS reports,” Autler said.  How do we know this wasn’t happening before that?”

“We don’t,” Taylor said.

The men also visited a property on Maplecrest Drive during work hours, according to their GPS reports. Jones visited the spot twice, and Harr went once. Both men claimed they had been visiting a friend, but there’s one problem.

“Nobody actually lives at that address. The property is under construction,” said Autler. “What do you make of that?”

“I can only take them for their word,” Taylor said. “Yes, they were there, and they were there for a very limited amount of time.”

Combined, the men spent a total of 63 minutes at the construction site.

What we do know is that Jones knows the general contractor on the project, David Craig Construction. That’s because permits show Jones and David Craig Construction have worked on at least four of the same projects in recent years.

When reached by phone, David Craig did not answer questions about his relationships with Jones, instead saying, “Y’all are crazy,” before eventually hanging up.

“I asked them if they were there doing specific either electrical or HVAC work and they said no,” said Taylor. “They just knew the guy, they were looking at the construction progress of the guy’s house.”

The I-Team contacted Harr and Jones multiple times to hear their explanations.

In an e-mail Jones wrote, “All allegations have been proven false with the exception of going to my personal residence.”

Still neither employee agreed to an interview.

Two weeks after we met with Metro Parks to review the GPS records, Harr and Jones were issued civil service violations related to deficient/inefficient performance of duties, using Metro vehicles for unofficial business and excessive idling.

Jones received a five-day suspension without pay and Harr received a one-day suspension without pay. Both employees also lost their accrued vacation and sick pay for a month.

Taylor said it’s a fitting punishment but still denies the men ever double dipped.

“There’s no evidence to say either one of them were doing something like that on the clock,” Taylor said.

But a current employee said whenever city time, city materials and city tax dollars are involved, city workers should be held accountable.

“They probably would have done nothing at all unless Channel 4 got involved,” he said.

In total, the maintenance division disciplined five people after checking their GPS records for reasons including speeding, long lunches and idling.

Spokeswoman Jackie Jones emphasized that Metro Parks is a good steward of taxpayer money.

The employee featured in our story was placed on paid administrative leave on Feb. 3 after a letter cited a violation of safety rules and official duties.

Five days later, an incident report was filed with Metro Parks police, who then forwarded the information to Metro police.

The incident report stated the employee threatened to kill Jones, Harr and Taylor, all who are people mentioned in our report.

The employee denied he ever threatened anyone and insisted his words were taken out of context.

No charges have been filed at this time.

His disciplinary hearing is scheduled for Friday.

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