Target 11 investigates the alarming costs of government-issued cellphones



A Target 11 investigation has uncovered $500 government-issued cellphones with unlimited data -- paid for by taxpayers.

Target 11 investigator Rick Earle talked with Allegheny County Controller Chelsea Wagner about her plan on cracking down on government-issued cell phones.

Wagner said just by reimbursing workers in the county for using their own cellphones, the county could save more than $100,000 per year.

"Here you see one Blackberry that was purchased for $500 and another one for $200," Wagner said. "They're looking at $20,000 for just this month."

Wagner said she realizes police and emergency services need the cellphones, but she's questioning why employees in other departments, such as the Office of Property Assessments, the treasurer and the executive office, have them.

"It just doesn't make sense for employees that are based in either the county courthouse or the city county building or the county office building. It really doesn't add up," Wagner said.

When Wagner took office, she eliminated county-issued cellphones in her department. Employees who need 24/7 access use their own phones, and they're reimbursed $20 per month.

"In just the bills we see, we're saving at least $100,000 per year," Wagner said.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said he's open to bringing costs down.

"You have to look at it on a case-by-case basis. It just depends on the issues," Fitzgerald said. "That's something we will take a look at -- any way we can bring costs down and make it more efficient."

Wagner said she plans to conduct a complete audit to see how many cellphones the county has and how much it's costing taxpayers.