City is missing property worth millions

Among 1,300 items: video systems, computers, breathalyzers, ice machines

JACKSONVILLE – The City of Jacksonville is preparing to write off millions of dollars worth of city property found to be missing or stolen over the past several years.

News4Jax investigators analyzed a list of hundreds of missing or stolen city equipment from June of 2014 to July 1, 2015 that includes courthouse video systems, ice machines, breathalyzers, and even bullet proof shields used by the JSO’s SWAT team. The purchase prices of the items on the list totaled $1.2 million.  

An expanded list, dating back to July 2010 includes more than 1,300 items, with original purchase price totaling more than $4.3 million.

City property missing between 2010-2015

News4Jax wanted to know how city assets like an $11,000 forklift truck vanish and why no one is being held accountable.

There’s only one way in and one way out of Duval County’s new courthouse, which is secured with video camera surveillance and armed police officers. But that didn’t stop video equipment totaling more than $100,000 from vanishing at the courthouse.

News4Jax asked city officials if the items were misplaced or stolen.

“It would be difficult if not impossible to determine,” City Councilman John Crescimbeni said.

Some of largest items on city's lost/stolen list

Taxpayers say the city should be held accountable.

“That’s not cool, we pay our taxes on everything they tax us on, so why aren’t they being held accountable for misusing, or their items disappearing,” Teresa Goodale said.

The list of items spans multiple city departments, including fire services which reported missing computers, exercise equipment, cameras, and ovens, and even a floating dock the city paid nearly $5,000 for in 1985.

In Jacksonville Fire-Rescue, more than $164,000 in equipment is missing.

At Animal Care and Protective Services,  two examination tables are missing, along with camera and video equipment, and two net guns, which are used to capture animals. 

“It’s ridiculous, that doesn’t make sense” said taxpayer William Felix.

City equipment is also missing from Jacksonville libraries, the storm water maintenance department, as well as the organized crime section of the Sheriff’s Office and FDLE.

Items include a $6,300 breathalyzer, two high-powered binoculars purchased for $3,600 dollars each, and two missing ice machines purchased for more than $1,100 each. 

We should be able to find our ice machines, and if we can’t find them, something has happened.”   - Councilman John Crescimben.

Crescimbeni said he doesn’t know with any certainty if the city equipment was stolen or misplaced. He does, however, admit the city of Jacksonville has a long-standing problem with keeping an accurate inventory of city property. 

“That $20,000 video camera could be in a closet somewhere where we can’t find it,” Crescimbeni

Each city department is required to do one inventory once a year. The city property officers are responsible for overseeing this process, as well as filing police reports. Any item valued over $1,000 is supposed to be physically tagged with a sticker and assigned an index code

”There should be a sticker on there, and there’s not, I don’t see one,” said Crescimbeni, while searching for a city sticker on his own computer

Crescimbeni said tickets that help to keep track of city property are not being used or sometimes they rub off the equipment and aren't replaced.

Asked if Mayor Lenny Curry was aware of these expensive oversights, a spokeswoman placed the blame on the former administration of Mayor Alvin Brown.

“Based upon our review, it’s apparent that the previous administration did not at all, conduct any of the inventory management practices. They did not follow municipal code 122, when you look at it, you have missing assets that show up in an annual report,” spokeswoman Marsha Oliver said.

Municipal Code 122 requires an annual inventory check, as well as inventory check if a department head is transferred, terminated or resigns. Code 122 also requires the city council to delete all the unaccountable items from property records annually. The accounting division also has to be notified of any discrepancies. 

David Hunt, a spokesperson for former Mayor Alvin Brown released this statement in his defense:

"Mayor Brown left office more than eight months ago, and it’s disappointing that anyone would continue to cast blame on him for ongoing city issues when the truth is the Brown administration worked hard to enhance accountability throughout city government. It should also be noted that a great number of items listed relate to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s office, Jacksonville Public Library and courts, independent branches of government which a mayor does not oversee.” 

Curry’s spokeswoman said loss prevention and inventory is a priority, but city officials couldn’t provide any specifics on how new guidelines are being implemented.

Crescimbeni says the only solution to really knowing if the items are lost are stolen is to revamp the city's inventory process as a whole. 

“This was just a very sloppy procedure, how can we improve it, maybe employee training, going to a bar code system with scanners, whatever is there, I readily admit the city needs to do a better job with this,” said Crescimbeni.

One week after News4Jax questioned the city about these losses we uncovered, new legislation was introduced to the council. This new legislation authorizes the director of finance to delete all unaccountable items from their books from 2010 to 2016.

These items were purchased for more than $4 million, but after depreciation the items are valued at $94,000.

About the Author:

Tarik anchors the 4, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. weekday newscasts and reports with the I-TEAM.