A California State University campus police officer regularly took time to sleep, lie down and not work while on duty for two years, according to a state audit released Tuesday.
The employee’s naps wasted some $20,000 in taxpayer money.
Executives at the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration and the former State Board of Equalization allowed 25 managers and supervisors to report inaccurate leave time. As a result, the departments overpaid employees by at least $72,000, and it’s estimated that extra payments made to similar employees throughout both agencies total more than $500,000.
These are just a few examples of waste, fraud and abuse the California State Auditor’s Office summarized in its regular, six-month report on “alleged improper governmental activities.”
As part of the California Whistleblower Protection Act, the state auditor received nearly 1,100 tips through its website, the whistleblower hotline, mail, fax or in person visits from July through December. During those six months, state auditors investigated more than 800 allegations.
The report details eight of those allegations, which involve several state agencies and California State University (CSU).
In all, auditors identified some $150,000 in inappropriate spending of taxpayer funds, the report said.
At CSU, auditors found a campus police officer regularly took time to lie down and at times fell asleep, while working the night shift in the patrol unit. They estimate the officer was resting an average of one to four hours per shift for nearly nine months, for an estimated range of $4,000 to $16,400 in wasted state funds.
The investigation also found the officer’s boss and campus dispatchers facilitated the behavior.
“(A sergeant), with whom the police officer had a personal friendship, allowed her to remove a portion of her uniform, including her body armor and duty belt, and lie down during her shifts,” the report said. “In addition, neither her lieutenant nor the police chief initiated a formal investigation once they became aware of the police officer’s alleged misconduct.”
Dispatchers interviewed in the investigation admitted they did not assign calls to the officer because they knew she was sleeping, the report said.
When the officer was transferred to an investigative position in 2018, she would include her 30-minute commutes to and from work in her 10-hour shift, auditors found. She also failed to account for additional hours on her timesheets, but CSU paid her nearly $4,000 for the unexplained hours anyway.
According to the report, employees at the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) and the former State Board of Equalization (BOE) work “9/8/80 schedules,” which consist of eight nine-hour days, one eight-hour day, and one scheduled day off over a two-week period. That meant every other week, they would get a weekday off.
When workers are absent on a nine-hour work day, the state expects employees to account for their whole day off by charging nine hours against their leave balance.
But the report found employees were reporting leave as if they worked a standard, 40-hour work week, meaning they were paid an extra hour for every nine-hour day they were absent. The false reports violate a state policy that has been in place since 2005.
Auditors also found that executives were aware of the discrepancy since at least October 2015 and allowed the practice to continue until August 2018.
“Although state law requires state agencies to keep complete and accurate timesheets, executive management at BOE and CDTFA allowed exempt employees to report inaccurate information on their timesheets for at least three years,” the report said. “Given that members of the executive and human resources staff were informed of this problem three years earlier, CDTFA should have taken action sooner and should have initiated collection of overpayments.”
Auditors recommended that CDTFA recover the overpayments or adjust the leave balances for all 25 workers, among other things. CDTFA officials announced in March plans to audit the attendance records of the employees identified in the report and make appropriate corrections where necessary, including adjusting leave balances.
Other cases summarized in the report include:
- Three engineers at the State Water Resources Control Board regularly left work early, showed up late or took extended lunch breaks. The state paid a total of $47,000 in salaries for work the employees did not perform.
- A California Department of Transportation employee falsely claimed 80 hours of bereavement and failed to charge more than 170 hours’ worth of vacation days on her timesheets, costing the state $8,400.
- A manager at the State Controller’s Office allowed his employees to submit inaccurate timesheets.
- Two supervisors at the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration failed to monitor the time and attendance of two clerical employees, allowing them to work less than eight hours per day, while still getting paid for a full work week. One supervisor said he expected employees to adhere to an “honor system.”
State agencies must report actions taken in response to the recommendations within 60 days of being notified of improper activities then make monthly updates until all the corrective action is complete.
People can report improper governmental activity to the state auditor by calling (800) 952-5665 or visiting its website. Whistleblowers can also contact U-T Watchdog via email or phone at 858-224-2275.
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