CITY HALL A Disturbing Report

Article excerpt

Just two months ago, the city of Jacksonville won the Governor's Sterling Award recognizing the city government for efficiency and effectiveness.

But a Times-Union report on Sunday indicated that operations in the city's Fire Prevention Division are far from sterling. Words such as "embar- rassing" and "shameful" might apply more aptly.

Times-Union reporters Steve Patterson and Paul Pinkham spent 80 hours watching nearly all the city's fire inspectors go about their business. But about two-thirds of what they saw inspectors do didn't relate to public business.

The reporters found inspectors shopping, visiting friends and running errands at taxpayer expense. One inspector who said she spent eight hours training to inspect day-care centers actually hung out at a mall and left work before 3 p.m. Another inspector went to two discount stores, a credit union and a sandwich shop within a two-hour and 45-minute period.

The reporters also found a records system in such shambles that it often couldn't be deciphered to measure the inspectors' performance. Record keeping is so bad that the prevention division isn't even sure how many places it is supposed to inspect. …