Deception and lies


LIES, FIBBING, deception. That's what The Sun has discovered in probing the performance of the city's much-touted 311 telephone system.

More than half of the test complaints about garbage, graffiti and malfunctioning street lights went unresolved. Worse yet, in numerous instances, workers claimed to have fixed the reported problems when, in truth, nothing was done.

Mayor Martin O'Malley needs to crack the whip and weed out these lying ne'er-do-wells who are sabotaging the 311 telephone system. He read the riot act yesterday, ordering changes. That is good.

This is not the first time 311's integrity has been questioned.

Three months ago, the City Council heard an earful from citizens who had called the complaint number without getting quick results. One of them, Irene Smith, a lawyer at the Community Law Center, bombarded the number with calls for eight months before a derelict van was removed from Reservoir Hill. All that time she got excuses, red tape and runaround instead of action.

Despite a monthly volume of more than 100,000 calls about city services and nuisances, the 311 call center seems to perform admirably. The same cannot be said about follow-up.

As reported by Tom Pelton in The Sun yesterday, two months ago a complainant asked the city to clear a West Baltimore alley of three refrigerators, five televisions, a washing machine, a baby crib and a lounge chair that had become a nuisance and health hazard.

On Dec. 30, a city worker reported to his bosses that the junk had been hauled away. In reality, nothing had been done.

The investigation conducted by The Sun revealed that some city workers habitually make misleading claims about their responses. This cannot be tolerated. Lying jeopardizes the value of the 311 system as a convenient and effective problem-solver. It also imperils the accuracy of CitiStat, which regularly monitors various municipal agencies' performance.

The reputation of Baltimore's city government should not be sullied by lazy or dishonest workers; if they don't do their jobs, others should be given the opportunity.

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