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Bruchey's cell phone use up this year

September 09, 1999|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II used his city-issued cell phone 32 more times this year despite saying in a March interview that he shut the phone off last December and put it in a drawer at home.

Twenty-six of the calls came in January and six others in April and May, according to cell phone records released by the city this week. The Herald-Mail Co. requested the phone records about a month ago.

Bruchey said Wednesday he must have been mistaken when he said he turned the phone off in December, rather than in January.

"I guess it was January," Bruchey said. "It must have been a mistake in my thinking."

Six other phone calls, from April 7 to May 4, were described as "personal,'' by the mayor, who declined to elaborate. Bruchey paid the city $4.10 for those calls Wednesday.

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The city discontinued service on the mayor's cell phone when the service contract expired in July. The service cost the city about $150 for the first six months of the year, with most of that attributed to the monthly service fees.

For now, the phone is in a dresser drawer at Bruchey's house, he said. The mayor said he just hasn't gotten around to bringing it in to City Hall yet.

Bruchey said that since January he has been using a cell phone owned by his employer, Frontier Internet Commerce, a business on Public Square in downtown Hagerstown. Bruchey said he will not ask the city to reimburse him for any calls he makes on that phone because he doesn't want the details to become public.

"I am done with city cell phones," Bruchey said.

The 1999 calls were a dramatic drop in use from last year when the mayor made or received more than 2,200 calls on the phone and taxpayers paid about $1,330 for the service.

When asked about last year's cell phone bills in March, Bruchey said that once he realized the public could access the billing records he decided to stop using the phone. He said then that he put the phone in a dresser drawer at his home in December and intended not to use it again.

Cell phone records can be inspected by the press and public because the city paid for the service.

The mayor went through the 1998 phone bills before releasing them and crossed out 996 of the calls - about 43 percent.

Numbers for 531 other calls - about 23 percent - were unavailable because they were incoming calls and the numbers weren't listed on the bill.

Bruchey said in March numbers he crossed off were either personal calls or calls the public doesn't need to know about.

"Probably 60 percent" of those calls concerned city business, he said. In most cases, he was either speaking with constituents or private businesses, Bruchey said.

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