A consultant hired by Cape Coral City Manager Gary King to examine the city's fleet claims that thousands of gallons of fuel cannot be accounted for.
A report dated Nov. 13 and filed by Bill Towler - King's consultant - says that gasoline consumption doubled in the last five years despite a reduction in fleet and staff size during that same time period.
While not accusing employees of outright fuel theft, Towler did say during a presentation to city council on Monday that an absence of checks and balances to monitor fuel consumption has placed the city in a bad situation.
"I'm trying to open everyone's eyes that we need to fix this problem, but it is not a reflection on staff members," Towler said.
Towler's report states that no system is being utilized by the city to prevent unauthorized use or theft of fuel.
Towler said the system was monitored prior to 2007. Since then, there is no way to monitor who is using fuel, or how much they are taking. He added that he's found evidence of numbers being manipulated in "the system."
"Someone went into the system ...and manually overwrote that data, to manipulate the system," Towler said. "Someone is trying to change the system, the data."
Towler used City Controller Linda Senne as an example. He said someone has been using her four digit pin number to fuel a city dump truck.
Still, Towler said he is not accusing city employees of any malfeasance.
"I am not stating, nor will I state, that any staff member of this city has taken fuel," Towler said.
Towler told city council it would "one to two weeks" for him to complete his fuel analysis. Towler will likely see a three-month renewal of his contract by King to complete the fuel analysis, as well as his inspection of the city's fleet.
Towler was hired three months ago for a temporary contract at $39 an hour. His hiring sparked controversy in the community by those who said it was a mere political favor since Towler supported Mayor John Sullivan and Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz with his now defunct "Grassroots 09" website. The website also supported Jim Martin when he was a council member candidate for district one. Martin was also hired by King as a special consultant to examine the city's Public Works Department.
The re-hiring of Towler found some opposition on the dais.
Councilmember Kevin McGrail said Towler served his purpose as a special consultant, but it was time for city staff to take over where Towler began.
"We have staff we can move forward with on this," McGrail said. "I do not see the sense in continuing on with a consultant for another three months when he's already pointed us in the right direction."
Sullivan said that when he served as a consultant the length of the contract could always be longer despite what's written in the document.
"Many times I was hired to go on a job for three months and three years later I was still on the job," Sullivan said.