KNBC: 'Staggering' Overtime at DOT

Posted on May 26, 2015

KNBC — City officials vowed Tuesday to control overtime hours in the Transportation Department in the wake of a city controller's audit that turned up unusually high overtime hours being reported by some employees.

Controller Ron Galperin received an anonymous tip that some transportation employees were claiming overtime hours that they did not actually work. Galperin said his audit found that four employees in the Traffic Paint and Sign division received at least $70,000 in overtime pay in fiscal year 2013-14, with one employee tripling his salary. The transportation employees logged "nearly super-human work schedules," Galperin said, with one claiming to have worked 261 hours in two weeks. That employee reported working 18-hour days on 10 occasions during that period, and at least 16 hours on four days, he said.

The division alone incurred $3.3 million in overtime costs in that year, with 93 percent of Traffic Paint and Sign employees reporting overtime, compared with 49 percent in most other city departments, excluding fire, police and other transportation employees. The average overtime pay of Traffic Paint and Sign employees was about $48,000, compared with $8,300 for many other city departments, the audit found.

"One might reasonably conclude that at least some of the employees in the Traffic Paint and Sign section were committing payroll fraud," Galperin wrote in his audit report. But because timesheets and other overtime records did not track whether work was performed, "there is less than sufficient evidence" to pass the findings onto "law enforcement, or to a criminal prosecutor ...," he wrote.

Transportation Department General Manager Seleta Reynolds said at least two supervisors were removed or rotated from their positions after the audit.

"From my perspective, it's management's responsibility -- we're the one that's responsible," she said. "I took a look around me and wanted to make sure that I had the best team in place to make those kinds of responsible decisions."

Reynolds said the Transportation Department once "had an excellent system in place for tracking and reporting out on overtime," but "somewhere along the way, that disappeared ..."

She said she looked at "who was sitting in the seat of approving overtime and how overtime was being approved" while also "going back and bringing that system back to life so that inside the department, everyone can see how overtime is being sort of approved, accrued and spent and what it's being spent on."

Galperin recommended that the Transportation Department keep more accurate and simplified record-keeping of overtime, update overtime policies, cap the amount of overtime for employees and create an overtime plan for each fiscal year.

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