PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A high level city worker has been axed after he was found accepting gifts — including iPods and designer bags — from a vendor.

Joseph James, the city’s deputy chief information officer, has been fired for allegedly accepting gifts, meals, and $48,000 worth of items through a rewards program.

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City inspector-general Amy Kurland says James, along with a co-worker who later retired, set up a Verizon Rewards account, then cashed in rewards points for things that would never be needed for city business:

“Numerous gift cards from Macy’s, from Barnes and Noble, iPods, Tumi luggage, a Bose sound system.”

Another current city worker who reported to James has been demoted.

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Verizon has a contract with the city.  Kurland says the matter has been referred to the offices of the district attorney, the US attorney, and the city ethics board.

A spokesman for Verizon says the company cooperated fully with the inspector-general’s probe.   As a result of the findings, he says, the firm has replaced the entire sales team dealing with the City of Philadelphia, terminated one worker, and disciplined some others.  Enhanced ethics training has also been added, the spokesman said.

Reported by Mike Dunn, KYW Newsradio 1060

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