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May 25, 2011

State: OTA exaggerated rider numbers

Former union official says drivers complained about timesheet changes

(Continued)

OTTUMWA —

But Bill Musgrove, a former steward for Teamsters Local 238, which covers OTA drivers, says such grievances were a routine part of his job.

“I was chief steward at the time and I filed several,” he said. “I would have drivers come to me and say ‘I didn’t get my pay.’ A lot of times I would go in and say, ‘This is wrong.’”

Musgrove said timesheets were repeatedly altered to reduce or eliminate driver overtime. Drivers would find out about the changes when they received paychecks that came up short.

If there were concerns about whether the timesheets were accurate, Musgrove says OTA should have called in the driver and gone over the concerns. That didn’t happen. Drivers usually got the pay back when Musgrove complained.

“It started way back when and we would constantly tell them, ‘You can’t do this,’” he said. “That’s a pretty serious thing.”

The Ottumwa Transit Authority could lose significant funding if state and federal agencies decide it inflated ridership numbers and received more money than it really deserved. Ward said a complete withdrawal of funding would likely cripple OTA, but she declined to speculate how less radical reductions might be handled.

“I’m not in a position today to say what changes are going to be made. I will say that  there are likely going to be impacts felt by the customers and staff, though I don’t know exactly what those are going to be,” she said.

The state also questioned the decision to use Ward Construction, a company owned by Pam Ward’s husband to install a floor. While OTA insists the contract was proper, auditors say the failure to publicly bid the contract and gain board approval prior to work beginning raise serious questions (Click here).

“Iowa code is specific in that to avoid the potential conflict of interest ... it has to be competitively bid. And it was not competitively bid. In fact, we couldn’t find where the board approved it,” Battani said.

OTA maintains Ward Construction gave the city a cheaper rate than what might have otherwise been received (Click here).

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The Iowegian wants readers to think about the solicitation ordinance that will prevent groups or individuals from entering a roadway to solicit money. The Centerville City Council in June by a 5-0 vote passed the first reading of just such an ordinance. Public pressure and during a subsequent special meeting, the council voted 3-2 to table the ordinance. A second special meeting to discuss the solicitation ordinance is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 7 at City Hall. So, the question of the week is, "Do you or do you not support the ordinance to prevent solicitation of funds in city streets?"

A. I support the ordinance
B. I do not support the ordinance
C. Not sure
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