October 13, 2007

City Worker Accused of Tampering With Water Meter

By Andrea Kelly, The Arizona Daily Star, Tucson

Oct. 13--A city of Tucson employee was cited last month after Tucson Water says he was tampering with his residential water meter to avoid paying for all of his water use. Lee Hanly at one time worked in the Tucson Water Department but is now a building inspector for the city's Development Services Department, said Mitch Basefsky, Tucson Water's spokesman. The single citation, issued in early September, was for four violations, though Basefsky couldn't say exactly what Hanly was cited for. Like a traffic citation, water citations can include multiple violations, such as theft, tampering with a meter or illegally bypassing a meter, Basefsky said. Hanly said he never stole any water from the city. "I'm a city employee, and as a public employee I try to hold myself to a higher standard," Hanly said. He said the water department installed a new meter at his home, but after the installation he noticed a small leak, which he tried to repair. His repairs caused a larger leak, he said. "I had pulled my meter out to fix a leak at the meter," Hanly said. The meter bypass was discovered by a city employee who found a spacer, used to bypass the meter, when trying to read the meter, Basefsky said. Tucson Water has three "water cops" who check for water waste, illegal water hookups, unmetered water use and other violations, Basefsky said. "This is something that we have to be on the lookout for," Basefsky said. But Hanly said the proof is in his water bills. He said his average water use didn't change until the leak started, and then his bill spiked in September from the leak, the same month the department cited him. Since the leak repair, Hanly's bill has gone back to his normal seasonal average, he said. The case is being handled in Tucson Municipal Court, Basefsky said. Like other civil infractions, those cited can choose to pay a fine or appear in court. Water citations begin at a minimum of $250 and the fine increases with more infractions, Basefsky said. It is impossible to know how much money the department may have lost or how much water use may have gone unmetered, Basefsky said.


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