The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

November 14, 2012

Commission announces cell phone crack down

By Mannix Porterfield
Register-Herald Reporter

— Yakking on a cell phone during business hours, except for an emergency, could find some Raleigh County public workers cooling their heels at home a few days without pay under a revision to the employee handbook.

Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the change Tuesday, after county attorney Bill Roop explained it and the need for it.

“Sometimes, as technology improves and grows, we need to continue to change and modify our policies to meet those needs,” Roop said.

In some instances, Commission President John Aliff said afterward, some county employees had abused the use of wireless telephones.

“Modern telephones now are considered computers,” he said.

“A lot of people were playing games on those phones instead of doing the work they should have been doing. Because of that, we felt there was a need to put some restrictions on their use. We’re saying they can use them on their lunch hour and when on break, and in the case of an emergency, of course.”

All other times, however, cell phones may not be used, he emphasized.

“To have someone just sit around on a computer — and basically, phones now are computers — all day long is a little far-fetched. I hope we’re going to correct this problem.”

The policy doesn’t mean the cell phones must be switched off, for in some occasions, an emergency call needs to be received.

If a personal crisis arises, Roop said there is no problem with an employee using a cell phone to deal with it.

“What was happening, we had employees who would stay on their cell phones constantly,” the attorney said.

“Their superiors had been complaining and brought it to our attention. So, we thought it was something we needed to address.”

A first infraction could lead to a reprimand by a superior. Once warned, an employee could face an unpaid suspension for subsequent violations, Aliff said.

“Each instance requires us to look at why it was violated, how it was violated, those sort of things,” Aliff said.

“If you’ve been given a written reprimand, it would behoove you not to do it again. If you do that again, you certainly are subject to having some time off without pay.”

While the social network Facebook isn’t mentioned in the handbook revision, Aliff suggested non-work reading and posting would fall under the same ban as the cell phones.

“I would think any time you’re using that and it’s not for county purposes, then you are subject to having to answer to someone for using a phone when there is no need to,” he said.

“Facebook to me is just a lot of people telling everybody their private lives. To me, it’s just not the right thing to do to start with.”

In other matters, the commission:

- Approved Sheriff Steve Tanner’s hiring of Stan Sweeney as a security officer for the board of education and Howard W. Long II as a deputy sheriff.

- Set Dec. 18 for a hearing on the proposed closing of Joseph Edwards Road in Stanaford.

- Approved a $64,800 engineering invoice turned in by E.I. Robinson Co. of Charleston for work on the Bragg/Pluto water system.

- Accepted a $5,000 contract via the state for Theatre West Virginia.

- Accepted a $1,436.88 drawdown for the Lillian James Learning Center.

- Authorized $15,000 for the anti-drunk driving patrols by the sheriff’s office.

- Held for review two bids submitted by the same firm, Window Works, of $16,838.25, the other for $17,864.36, for the replacement of windows at the Campbell Building, used by the prosecuting attorney’s office.

- Appointed Todd Robinson to the North Beckley Public Service District to complete the term of Joe DeClaro.

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