County oversight committee seeks changes at highway department

The indictment of a Rock Island County highway boss will lead to changes at the department, but it’s still unclear what will be different.

On Tuesday, members of a county sub-committee formed to investigate current operating policies toured the highway department and met to discuss getting bids for fuel tracking systems and possibly video surveillance cameras.

Earlier this year, highway foreman Jim Geiger was indicted on felony theft charges. The investigation included allegations of ripping off gas at county pumps  and using county equipment and materials for personal projects.

County leaders say at this point they don’t know the extent of the charges, but agreed Tuesday, the department needs “fine tuning”.

“Do I have some concerns based on what we’ve found the past few months? Yes”, said County Board Chairman Phil Banaszek, who took over as chairman last fall.

“The only knowledge I had of it was when a couple employees approached me and as soon as they started discussing it with me, and I got the hint of illegal activity, I called the Sheriff’s Department”, Banaszek said.

The committee is moving forward with getting quotes for a computerized fuel tracking system and card reader for the county pumps, and looking into cameras.

Right now, there are regulators that track daily gas usage on the pumps, but the tracking of who uses what is logged in by hand, and subject to human “error”.

“What we’re learning is where we need to make corrections in light of some of the errors that have been made’, said Ken “Moose” Maranda, the county board member now in charge of the public works committee.

The committee says it will wait to deal with any personnel issues until after the court case is over.

“Where it got to this point is anybody’s guess”, Maranda said.

“But it’s at a critical point right now. It’s our job to take a hard look”, he said.

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