City officials on Tuesday released the DVD recordings of a private investigator who tailed city workers accused of doing personal business on government time.
The three recordings, which were collected on three different days, show workers in the city stormwater department buying lottery tickets, visiting a bike shop and taking their government truck home during the workday.
Recorded as part of the defense of a fired worker, the tapes are evidence that the city department has an unwritten policy of letting workers finish personal business when their daily work is done, the fired employee's attorney says.
Phillip Haywood, a 14-year city employee, was fired in November when city officials discovered him at home with a city vehicle during his workday. He told supervisors it was common to spend down time on personal errands.
The recordings were meant to bolster his case.
Instead, the city is using them as evidence to possibly discipline other city workers. City officials did not return a call asking if other workers had been fired or reprimanded.
The recordings, which were shot in December 2006 and in June, show city stormwater employees near the end of their workdays.
In one video, a city worker climbs down from a stormwater truck to apparently buy a bicycle rim at a shop. He and a colleague then take the truck to a residence before stopping at a convenience store to buy lottery tickets.
In another video, a city worker stops at Church's Chicken and then a convenience store, where he talks to a man in a wheelchair for several minutes before the man reaches into his wallet and hands the worker money. Investigators followed him for two hours while he was on city time.
On June 20, an investigator taped a city employee inside a stormwater truck with a woman for about 45 minutes. It's unclear in the video what they were doing because the truck's windows are tinted.
A log accompanying the recordings identified the workers, but the Times is not publishing their names because they have not been verified independently.
"The investigator only went out three times in the afternoon and these were the films he got. In other words, he batted a thousand," said Haywood's attorney, James Sheehan.
Haywood was fired in November when he left work without permission to get blood pressure medicine he had left at home in St. Petersburg. When he tried to return, his city truck wouldn't start. He had to call for help.
Haywood, who was fired two weeks later for the unauthorized use of a city vehicle and neglecting his work, is appealing his dismissal. He has declined to comment pending the outcome of that case.
Aaron Sharockman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2273.