by Max Brantley
I've been in and out all day, unable to get people on the phone, but here's a response from Randy Ort of the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department responding to written questions about the new state audit that found abuse of time off policies in the legal division of the highway department. Specifically, people were given regular time off with pay beyond that allowed by written personnel policies.
The central issue was a policy by which every one of the 20 employees in the division could take half a day off every third Friday with pay. A further issue was a representation on time sheets that the time off was comp time. This was for hourly employees. Some division employees are "exempt" status, meaning they don't accrue overtime. There are 11 lawyers in the division, including chief Robert Wilson. Ort's response was limited because the matter remains under investigation.
There’s not much I can say about the audit findings since it’s still a work in progress until the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee meets in September. I can tell you that this situation came to light last summer when the AHTD Internal Audit Division became aware of some recordkeeping in our Legal Division that was possibly not consistent with Department policy. Internal Audit’s review of the Legal Division (which included a review of all AHTD Divisions and Districts for comparison purposes) led them to the conclusion that the issue should be turned over to Legislative Audit. This was done in late 2010 or early 2011. As you are aware, a summary of the findings of Legislative Audit was released this week, and we will let that document speak for itself.
In response to a question, he said the comparative review with other divisions led them to conclude that no other had a standing policy for a paid half-day off on a regular basis.