Lack of talk led to cellphone snafu, Farmer says

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By Damon Lawrence

Mike Farmer blamed a communication snafu for the high taxpayer funded cell phone bills incurred during his time as county executive. One of the bills was $660.25. Another one was $512.56. Several others ranged from $425 to $450.

“It appears that there was a miscommunication between purchasing and the provider on the text messaging package when the line was established,” Farmer said.

The high cell phone bills were being incurred at the same time Farmer was telling voters he was the most experienced candidate in the 2010 race for county executive. He was defeated by Ron Woody.

“It would be interesting to know what the bills were for September and October of the same year, but you are probably not interested in that information,” Farmer said.

Farmer’s last day in office was Aug. 31, 2010. Woody took over the following day.

There was a $625.42 bill that covered Aug. 17, 2010, to Sept. 16, 2010. There was a $557.41 bill that covered Sept. 17, 2010 to Oct. 16, 2010.

“You come into office Sept. 1, the biggest priority is not to look at all the cellphone bills,” Woody said. “There was a whole lot of other issues we had to deal with.”

Woody said he took action as soon as he identified the cellphone problem, which was less than three months into his term.

“How many years did it go on before that?” Woody said. “I don’t know if they (Farmer’s administration) even tried to identify the problem. We did and corrected it as soon as we could.”

In November 2010, Woody instituted a new cellphone policy for the employees under the county executive’s supervision.

The policy requires employees to buy their own cell phones and provides stipends that range from $30 to $100.

“We changed it to something that was more effective and efficient for the government,” he said. “We also saved the taxpayers money.”

Farmer is seeking his old job back, having picked up a petition to run for county executive in this year’s election.

When asked about the high cellphone bills incurred under his previous term, Farmer said he was just following established policy.

“It wasn’t ‘my’ way,” he said. “It was a policy that I did not change that had been in place for probably as long as the county had paid for cellphones,” he said.

Woody, who is seeking re-election, called that bad management.

“My management style is to always review and update our policies,” Woody said, “not just because they did it that way we’re always going to do it that way. You have to look at your policies.”

Election Day is Aug. 7.

Farmer did not commit to keeping Woody’s cellphone policy in place.

“It may need to be looked at and tweaked,” Woody said of the policy. “We’ll do that, but to abolish it would be a total disservice to the taxpayers.”