Send Ben: ‘Nice BMW’ Jacksonville department head pays back City after Action News Jax Investigates

Jacksonville, Fla. — Action News Jax is investigating a City of Jacksonville department head over his usage of electricity and City resources and if he was undercharged when paying it back.

The City employs thousands of workers in public buildings, but Roy Birbal is plugged in more than most.


The chief of Public Buildings, who over the past five years has seen his salary increase from $95,000 to $130,000 year “oversees the payment of utilities” and “performs minor, non-capital renovations and improvements,” according to the city website.

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Birbal’s most recent performance review reads in part, “You anticipate and avoid situations that could create negative ethical perceptions of the organization.”

But in an Action News Jax investigation, the City was aware of inquiries from Action News Jax’s Ben Becker about Birbal - just two days before that performance review.

Becker obtained a photo of Birbal’s personal hybrid car parked at the public building headquarters inside a fence with a large sign that reads, “City vehicles only beyond this point.”

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In the photo, it shows the car is charging and the plug goes into the City building.

“Hi Roy, Ben Becker Action News Jax, how are you?” Becker greeted Birbal, before complimenting him on his car, “Hey, nice BMW,”  as Becker caught up with Birbal in front of the building. Becker wanted to see if Birbal was taking taxpayers for a ride down electric avenue. “I just want to ask you about the picture, is this your car?” asked Becker. “I’ll talk to you later, thank you,” responded Birbal. “Have you paid back any money?” Becker inquired as Birbal slammed shut his car door.

Birbal pays back City, but is it enough?

After hitting a speed bump with Birbal, Becker emailed the City to ask who authorized installing the electrical outlet and if the City was being reimbursed.

The very next day, a receipt shows Birbal cut a check in person at the tax collector’s office for $92.08, which includes paying back the City $75.52 for a master electrician and electrician to install a 120-Volt electrical box, $7.08 for materials and $9.48 for electrical usage over a four-week period, according to a City invoice.

Becker showed the City invoice to Jimmy Humphries, a master electrician and the electrical service manager with Snyder Air Conditioning, Plumbing and Electric.

Humphries believes a 120-Volt installation should cost a lot more that what the City charged Birbal.

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“Put together, [it’s] less than $75 per hour,” said Humphries. “I mean even us here when you run a truck and an apprentice licensed electrician journeyman is closer to $300 per hour right there,” added Humphries.  “$300 per hour,” Becker asked. “Yes sir,” said Humphries.

The 120-Volt rating of the charger is the bare minimum amount of juice you can pull into an electric vehicle. Recharge times are a mere 3 to 5 miles of range per hour, a lot less than the typical 40 amps which is up to seven times more efficient.

Becker asked the City why its installation charges appear to be a quarter of the cost, significantly below the industry rate and they declined to comment.

Becker has been told by sources that Birbal only parks his BMW in front of the public building headquarters --- like everyone else.

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