Watchdog: Follow the Money

Why work when you can watch TV at a New York steam plant?

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"Dancing with the Stars" comes before work for some New York state employees, according to the state's inspector general.

"Lax supervision and a culture of permissiveness" has allowed employees of Albany's Sheridan Avenue Steam Plant — which heats and cools a state office complex adjacent to the New York Capitol building — to drink on the job and use the staff breakroom to watch television for hours, the IG said.

The plant produces steam for the Empire State Plaza, a 10-building complex with offices for 11,000 state workers. With multiple gas boilers and gasoline-powered backup generators, the steam plant is the largest consumer of natural gas in the northeastern U.S., according to the IG report.

The investigation revealed that management at the plant was aware that an employee "openly constructed his own elaborate entertainment area and watched television for significant periods of his shift."

This employee was such a fan of the ABC reality show "Dancing with the Stars" that when he was assigned a shift during the show's airing, he brought in a television to watch it. The plant's video cameras caught him making and dismantling a homemade living room, complete with television, antenna, chair and portable generator, as well as watching the two-hour show in the facility parking deck after co-workers locked him out of a break room. A shift supervisor was seen walking by the employee while he watched the show, taking no action.

Another employee was arrested for drinking and driving only half an hour after leaving his job site. The employee's drinking habits before and during work were known by other co-workers and supervisors, but they "failed to take appropriate action," the IG found.

Letting him remain at the facility to do his daily duties, such as performing boiler maintenance, places "fellow plant employees, innumerable local residents and the tens of thousands of workers who commute daily to the downtown Albany area to work," at risk, the IG said.

Despite it being known he came into work drunk and continued to drink beer throughout his 7 a.m.-to-3 p.m. shift, he still works at the facility, the IG reported.

The IG said "a systemic deficiency in management supervision of the steam plant" contributed to the problems described in the report.

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