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Monday, June 20, 2011

Fox 4 Investigation sparks audit into Lee County D.O.T

Karen Hawes - Lee County Manager
A Four in your Corner investigation sparks an audit into the controversy surrounding the Department of Transportation. Lee County manager Karen Hawes has officially called for an independent audit of D-O-T's hiring practices. Hawes says, "We're going to be looking into the D.O.T. hiring practices and the independent audit division will also be interviewing employees and this way it can be kept confidential"

That's good news for some D.O.T employees who have already aired their concerns. Steven Sherman works in D.O.T's traffic sign division and supports the audit, "It's a good thing, from my experience over there it's long overdue."

Clay Simmons - D.OT. Supervisor
A Four in your Corner investigation recently exposed what employees are calling horrible working conditions at D-O-T such as harassment and intimidation by supervisors and Division Director Clay Simmons is now in the hot seat.

Simmons has been accused of wasting taxpayers' money. Workers say Simmons ordered them to deliver 130 truckloads of dirt from Buckingham to a private home on Orange River Boulevard in Fort Myers. The Berner family says they used the dirt to build a slope along the pond on their 10 acre property. We are told the entire job took 10 hours and 7 workers to complete. If that's true that means dump trucks made 130 trips, driving about 7 and a half miles each way racking up nearly two thousand miles on county time and funded by taxpayer dollars.

Steve Sherman - Lee County D.O.T.
Fox 4 investigator Mike Mason asked Sherman, "they guys who were driving the trucks delivering the dirt on that day, what did they have to say about it? Sherman replied, "They say there was some sort of shenanigans, that's an exceptional delivery."
Sherman is one of the workers who blew the whistle on his supervisors and after Four in your Corner began digging up the dirt, the County Manager took notice. Hawes admits she initiated the audit because, "I've had other employees mention some things to me, your reports and other information that's coming forward, this is the time to do it?"
Four in your Corner visited D.O.T's Operations Center for the third time to speak with Clay Simmons but were told he's off on Mondays. One question we wanted to ask him was about his hiring procedures. Many employees say he's giving out promotions to people who may not be best qualified for the job. One of those employees is Shane Hinman who is a crew supervisor. Today our cameras caught up with him. Fox 4 Investigator Mike Mason confronted Hinman saying, "Some other employees say you got a job after only being here for 2 years and they were here for 10 or 20 years and they haven't gotten that job". Hinman replied, "You'll have to take that up with Downtown, man, ‘cause I don't know and I couldn't tell you."
After digging deeper Fox 4 Investigates also discovered Hinman may have been a ‘shoo-in' for the crew supervisor job. County records show Clay Simmons only advertised Hinman's position for 2 days last year, from December 22nd until December 249th; Christmas Eve. Fox 4's Mike Mason asked the County Manager if 2 days was really enough time to allow other people to apply for the job. Hawes simply replied, "It's not the norm. It's not the norm."

County Manager Karen Hawes says the audit will begin by investigating D.O.T's hiring practices but may expand to cover other issues such as claims that supervisors are harassing employees and potentially wasting taxpayer dollars. Fox Four Investigates will stay on top of this story and bring you the latest.
To view Fox 4 report click on link: http://www.fox4now.com/story/14945187/fox-4-investigation-sparks-audit-into-lee-county-dot?redirected=true

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