By Debby Woodin
JOPLIN, Mo. —
A city mechanic has been fired in connection with theft and Joplin’s public works director has been demoted as the result of city investigations into problems in the department that the city manager said resulted in revenue loss.
Assistant City Manager Sam Anselm confirmed that the public works director, David Hertzberg, has been reassigned as Community Development Block Grant project manager, a position the City Council recently approved to work on redevelopment projects.
Anselm has been assigned as interim public works director, he confirmed.
Hertzberg could not be reached for comment on Monday.
City Manager Mark Rohr, in a short, broad statement, said the city uncovered “management issues” within the building division of public works that, while not theft, have caused a loss of revenue. He did not specify those problems.
Anselm, asked if the loss is related to fees for building permits or other services, said city officials will not discuss details at this point.
“We’re still assessing” the situation, and “there are still some pending personnel issues” involved, Anselm said.
Rohr also said in his statement that a city worker had been fired for alleged theft.
The fired worker was identified by Joplin police Lt. Matt Stewart as Jeramy Jasperson, 38. Jasperson was a mechanic in the city garage.
Rohr said he requested an investigation into the city garage.
As a result, police stopped Jasperson’s vehicle after he left work at 10:07 p.m. on June 24. Officers reportedly found a case of oil and a bottle of refrigerant in his vehicle.
Stewart said Jasperson has been charged in Joplin Municipal Court with misdemeanor theft but has not yet made a court appearance. Property valued at less than $500 is the basis for the stealing charge, Stewart said.
Jasperson could not be reached for comment on Monday.
Rohr, in his statement, said in reference to the theft that “the city has no tolerance for this type of activity by any of its employees. When something such as this occurs, we take it very seriously. In addition to the charge, certain structural changes need to be made within this division. Accordingly, corrective personnel actions have taken place in this area to ensure that we measure up to the highest expectations our citizens expect and deserve. These actions are not taken lightly, and were implemented after a thorough review and investigation.”
Rohr, in reference to the building department loss, said in the statement that “administrative changes have and will be made to rectify this situation. In handling matters such as these, I want to be as forthcoming as possible, but because of the criminal and personnel nature of these matters, I am unable to provide further details.”
Rohr, asked to answer questions about the probes, said through the city’s public information officer, Lynn Onstot, that additional information could not be given because it involves personnel issues. She also said Rohr was involved in budget meetings and did not have time for a further response.
Mum on records
THE CITY DID NOT RELEASE information such as the nature of the loss or the suspected amount, if known, in the Public Works Department. Nor did it release basic employment information that, in the past, has been public. That information includes hire dates and salaries of David Hertzberg and Jeramy Jasperson, and Jasperson’s separation date.