by Max Brantley
Thanks to a tipster for a newly released Legislative Audit report on the Highway and Transportation Department.
In brief: The auditors will refer to the Pulaski prosecuting attorney their finding that employees in the department's legal division, headed by Robert Wilson, have been improperly getting a half-day off, with pay, every three weeks, and an additional two hours paid time off (it's not clear if this is every three weeks or more or less frequently) for doctors appointments and "personal errands." These practices date back to 1989. The auditors did a three-year study in which they found time off justified as comp time for overtime, but no documentation exists to substantiate the overtime.
There's no telling how much paid labor taxpayers where cheated out of by these practices, which run counter to rules on a 40-hour work week. The auditors said they couldn't come up with an estimate of the loss on the two-hour personal time practice or the unsubstantiated comp time found over a three-year period. On the improper half-day-with-pay rule, the report said:
The Chief Legal Counsel of the Agency, Robert L. Wilson, allowed staff of the Agency’s Legal Division to have inappropriate paid absences from work. Employees were improperly allowed to take 4 hours (one-half day) of paid time off every three weeks on a rotating basis. Schedules assigning the one-half day for the period July 1, 2007 through December 31, 2009, and analysis of corresponding leave records and other support, indicated that employees of the Division may have been paid for 2,520 hours for which they did not perform job duties. Based on the employees’ average hourly rates for the period, the estimated cost of this time totals $73,891.
Did the boss know about this? Good question. Wilson reported directly according to the agency organizational chart to the Highway Commission and long-time department director Dan Flowers, who recently retired with a $195,000 annual pension. I'm trying to get a response. Tea Party anyone?
UPDATE: The department's response was limited because the matter remains under investigation. But a spokesman said the issue was self-reported and the practice didn't appear to be department-wide.