Hang up or pay phone bill Baltimore Co. billing some car-phone users.


A new policy on the use of car phones owned by Baltimore County has resulted in 15 car phones being turned off and 46 declared exempt.

That means only 15 of the county's 76 phones are actually subject to County Executive Roger B. Hayden's new policy of requiring county employees to pay the phone bills themselves.

Under the policy, announced several weeks ago, those with the phones in their county vehicles will get detailed billings, which they will be liable to pay.

Those employees could later seek reimbursement from the county for business calls, but could not seek reimbursement for the $11-a-month service charge.

The old policy, which prevailed under the Rasmussen administration, called for no detailed billings, except for members of the County Council, who insisted on receiving them.

Hayden originally exempted himself, the county administrative officer, the sheriff, state's attorney and council members -- 10 phones all together.

But according to John E. Lutz, director of Central Services, Hayden later decided to also exempt 13 car phones used by the police force, 16 phones used by the fire department and seven portable phones that are not assigned to any one person.

Lutz said, however, that the county still will get detailed billings for all those phones and, in most cases, employees who were found to have made personal calls would be asked to reimburse the county.

"What we're looking for here is accountability," Lutz said.

Of the 15 phones that have been turned off, eight had been used by various captains and battalion chiefs in the fire department; four by Rasmussen appointees who Hayden fired; and three by a highways official, the director of emergency services and the director of public works.

Gene Neff, the public works director, still has a car telephone. The phone he turned in was one of two he has been using.

Lutz said the car phones that were turned off will remain in county vehicles as a way to improve resale value of those vehicles.

Except for Lutz and Dr. Philip H. Pushkin, Hayden's choice for chief of the health department, all Hayden appointees to high-level positions have gotten car phones.

Lutz said he found he spent most of his time in the office and doesn't need the car phone. "I've got a beeper, which actually reaches more places than the car phone, anyway. The beeper goes wherever you go," he said.

Pushkin already had a car phone in his private vehicle, said Lutz.

Two Hayden appointees are using car phones that were once used by Dale Volz and William Evans, two council members voted out of office last year.

Dundalk Councilman Don Mason, D-7th, Volz's successor, and Parkville Councilman William Howard, R-6th, Evans' successor, chose not to use car phones.

Hayden then reassigned those two car phones to Judith E. Scheper, his chief of staff, and Nicholas C. Spinnato, an executive assistant.

Asked why he didn't want a car phone, Mason replied, "It's just as easy to pull over on the side of the road and make a call."

Of the seven portable telephones that are exempt from the new policy, two belong to the vehicle maintenance bureau and are used primarily on county tow trucks, said Lutz. One is assigned to the economic development office and four others are used by the bureau of utilities.

Lutz said his staff will review the detailed billings of those phones for signs of abuse.

Mason, for one, is confident that abuse will not occur. "I don't think you're going to find any of [Hayden's] people abusing" the privilege, he said. "He's going to be watching them."

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