Two city of Kokomo employees face discipline after using government equipment to complete a private contracting gig.
In late October, Kokomo resident Cathy Wilder needed to get two concrete slabs behind her garage repaired. She struck a contract with Gerald Armfield, an employee at the city of Kokomo’s wastewater treatment plant, to have the work done. What Wilder didn’t expect was for Armfield to use a city of Kokomo truck and other city-owned equipment to complete the job.
“Had I known that Gerald would be using city equipment … I would not have allowed it,” said Wilder. “I do not take what doesn’t belong to me. That’s not how I do things.”
Wilder contacted the Kokomo Perspective about her concern, which prompted calls to city hall. City officials then launched an internal investigation into the matter to determine if any wrongdoing took place.
Wilder first struck a contract with Armfield on Oct. 28, signing with him for the concrete work. She paid him a $1,000 down payment for the job and agreed to pay him $7,000 for the work.
Armfield began the work shortly thereafter. But, on Oct. 31, Armfield and others came to Wilder’s residence to prepare gravel before concrete could be poured. Machinery was brought to Wilder’s home in a white truck emblazoned with the City of Kokomo logo. That truck’s hydraulic arm was used to unload a grave compactor, presumably owned by the city as well. Wilder snapped photos of the truck as work commenced on her concrete pads, and clearly visible in the photo was the city’s logo emblazoned on the pickup’s passenger-side door. It’s also time-stamped with the date Oct. 31, and it was taken at 1:01 p.m.
According to the city of Kokomo, the investigation resulted in discipline against two city employees.
“The city of Kokomo has thoroughly investigated the allegations of misuse of city equipment,” said Deputy Mayor David Tharp. “Appropriate discipline has been applied to the employees involved in this matter pursuant to the terms of discipline set forth in the AFSCME collective bargaining equipment.”
Tharp declined to name the employees who were disciplined as a result of the investigation but acknowledged that both employees worked in the wastewater treatment plant.
Furthermore, he confirmed that the allegation concerning the two employees who worked on Wilder’s concrete pads were not on the clock at the time the work occurred, thus lessening the offense.
“He wasn’t on the clock,” said Tharp. “He actually took a lot of vacation that week to work on a project. He wasn’t on the clock, so that severely limits the severity of it.”
Had the employees been on the clock, the issue could have even resulted in criminal charges relating to ghost employment. Such charges were brought against two Howard County employees in early 2017 after an investigation showed they were working on cars as part of personal business while clocked in for work with the county.