Cleveland public utility director commutes 120 miles roundtrip in new car bought by ratepayers

An exclusive 5 On Your Side hidden camera investigation revealed the second highest paid worker in Cleveland city government commutes 120 miles roundtrip behind the wheel of a new sports utility vehicle paid for by Cleveland water and electric customers.

Public Utilities Director Robert L. Davis was hired in 2015 and earns $200,000 a year to oversee Cleveland Division of Water, Cleveland Public Power and Cleveland Water Pollution Control. 

Ratepayers are calling it “too much money”, “fleecing” and “blatant unfairness.”

Drowning in Dysfunction: Watch our year-long investigative special into the Cleveland Water Department here.

Davis lives in Warren, Ohio where he served as the director of Utility Services overseeing the Warren Water Department until May 2015, when he took over the top job in Cleveland.

Soon after, Davis was given the keys to a new, 2015 Ford Explorer Sport SUV that records show racks up nearly 1,000 miles a month.

In addition to his salary and vehicle, ratepayers also pay for his gas, tires and maintenance.

Our hidden camera investigation found Davis leaving his home in Warren — 60 miles away from Cleveland — a little after 10 a .m. on a weekday. He arrived at work after 11 a.m. — a full hour later.

We documented his commute both on the ground and in Airtracker5. 

On another occasion, Davis was ticketed for going 70 miles an hour in a 55-mile zone heading westbound to Cleveland on U.S. 422 driving the same Ford Explorer SUV.

Meanwhile, Davis, who does not pay a dime for Cleveland water, oversees a department where ratepayers are paying more than ever before. He also oversees water department policy of foreclosing on homes while struggling customers are finding it impossible to pay water bills.

In other cases, water customers have complained of being billed for water they have not even used.

Davis declined an opportunity for an interview to explain the need for a sports utility vehicle paid for by ratepayers, instead directing his media relations team to issue a statement:

As the Director of Public Utilities, Director Davis is responsible for the operation of three separate utilities that provide service to the City of Cleveland and the region – Cleveland Water, Cleveland Public Power and Cleveland Water Pollution Control. This responsibility requires 24 hour availability in order to respond to emergencies that occur throughout the region regularly. His access to a City issued vehicle is standard practice in the utility industry and is critical to supporting the need to respond to emergency situations across a 640 square mile area.

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