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May 12, 2011

6

City’s dirty laundry in streets division aired on KLIN

by Deena Winter

The dirty laundry that first came out here regarding problems in the city of Lincoln’s street department were aired on KLIN on Wednesday.

Coby Mach’s “Drive Time Lincoln” spent much of the show yesterday interviewing union attorney Gary Young about the bullying, infighting and safety problems that have long plagued the street maintenance division of the Public Works department. Young told Mach — as he told me — that of all the public employees he’s represented statewide, this department is the “most poorly run” of all, and has been for five to 10 years.

(Click to play Part 1 and Part 2 of the interview.)

A dozen city employees met with Mach — as they did with me multiple times in recent years — to talk about the problems they’ve experienced. They chose to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation.

Part of the reason this is news is the police investigation into the death of one of those street maintenance workers last year was recently made public, and it was inconclusive. Eric Kohles, 37, died a few days after an old Heckendorn mower he was using to mow a ditch tipped over onto him. Employees say Kohles’ death is emblematic of the kind of retaliation, bullying and training inadequacy that plagues the department.

One new issue that came out on the show is an allegation that a gambling ring is operated in the department.

“It is a one in a million kind of place,” Young said on KLIN. Young said the mayor’s chief of staff, Rick Hoppe, called him Wednesday and offered to meet with him and try to resolve the issues. Young said he’d take Hoppe at his word, although Hoppe has met with the street workers and union officials several times in recent years already.

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6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Brad
    May 12 2011

    That’s the Mayor’s “deferred maintenance” for street dept equip. Why buy newer/safer mowers when they’ve cut back on mowing? Some of those Heckendorn mowers have been around since WWII.

    Reply
  2. porcupine
    May 12 2011

    It’s obvious that the wrong people are in charge! The bigger question is is it a couple of managers at street maintanance, or is it the Mayor and his Aid I heard on KLIN tonight? It seems like the Mayor’s office wants to blame the workers for there mis-management and take it out on the workers. I cannot believe what I heard Rick say, ‘come forword so they can get to the bottom of it!’ After reading Deena’s articles, it sounds like the last two people that did just that are either dead or fired!!

    Reply
  3. doc
    May 13 2011

    when a manager is accused of wrong doing, they have city lawyers, police dept. aerial photos, and weather conditions for the last two years to create some sort of loophole. A worker comes forward to say enough is enough and something needs to be done, they are treated like dirt by personnel and city hall. It’s hard to believe that there isn’t one person up above in the chain of command that is willing to stop all the wrongdoings! We all know you are a politician Rick, but my opinion for what it’s worth, you give politicians a bad name. If that’s possible. Whats the old saying? lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way! A little bit of advice Rick, if your going to follow you better trust who’s leading you!

    Reply
  4. doc
    May 13 2011

    (LeRoy Scott Edwards)

    Reply
  5. ken
    May 13 2011

    The sad part about all of this is,Rick Hoppe and personnel know the truth. Scott O. knows the truth. Why would 30-40+ people put their jobs at risk to get management into trouble or fired? Does any one really think that Gary Young would let workers put their livelihood in jeopardy based on fiction or half truths? I don’t think so! Why would a dozen workers go and talk to Coby Mach and put their jobs in jeopardy? I have no doubt that these workers are telling the truth. The mayor, Rick, Scott, and the rest of management are in so deep, the truth can not come out!

    Reply
  6. John Wayne
    May 14 2011

    Their day is coming and its gona be sweet to see them burn.

    Reply

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