Mayor Bob Buckhorn has given the city's parks division oversight of landscaping near the junction of Interstate 4 and Interstate 275, taking it away from the troubled Clean City Division.
City officials said the decision, approved by the City Council last week, was in the works long before an audit of Clean City turned up a host of problems there. But the shift could signal changes to come within Clean City, which the audit showed has a history of mismanagement of equipment and private contractors.
The property is downtown at the intersection's northwest corner, where Scott and Jefferson streets provide access to the two highways. The area was part of a project to dress up the downtown "gateway" areas ahead of last summer's Republican National Convention.
The property has been cared for by Greenturf Services Inc. under a contract managed by Clean City. Shifting oversight of the $358,000 contract to Parks and Recreation puts the land under the control of the people who originally designed the landscaping, the mayor said.
The shift also takes the contract away from Clean City, which an audit found has done a poor job of overseeing dozens of its contracts.
Clean City crews maintain medians along city roads. They also pick up litter, patrol for illegal signs along roadsides, clear away graffiti and clean up illegal dump sites.
This year, the division has a budget of $4.5 million and 47 workers.
The city audit, released earlier this month, found that Clean City workers made questionable purchases with the division's credit card, displayed lax accounting for equipment and workers' time, tolerated theft of city-owned equipment and were slow to respond to residents' calls for customer service.
City Council members have called for an explanation of what went wrong with Clean City. They've asked city officials overseeing the division to appear at their Feb. 7 meeting.
One person who won't be there is James Pinckney, the man who directly supervises the division. Buckhorn said Tuesday he blocked Pinckney from attending the council meeting.
"It's not City Council's job to micromanage the day-to-day operations," Buckhorn said.
Council members said they're just trying to understand what's going on.
"I don't know why you would not want the staff member who is the direct overseer of the department that made mistakes," said Councilwoman Lisa Montelione. "It is our job to answer to the public, and the public wants answers to these questions."
So far, no one within Clean City has been disciplined as a result of of the audit. Buckhorn said if that happens, it will be after Clean City has been cleaned up.
"At this point, we're looking at what the future of Clean City is going to be," Buckhorn said.
That won't involve disbanding the division, he said.
"Used correctly and managed correctly, it can be a very valuable tool," Buckhorn said.