by Max Brantley
I'm hoping for a detailed report from Fox 16 on the legislative audit discussion today about the unauthorized practice in the Highway and Transportation Department's legal division of giving employees regular time off for personal time whether they'd earned the time or not. In some cases, earlier findings have indicated, employees claimed the time off as comp time when they had not worked overtime.
According to Fox 16's David Goins, Highway Commission Chairman Madison Murphy said no disciplinary action had been taken so far. You have to wonder why. It's not reassuring about stewardship of one of the state's biggest and most powerful agencies, particularly one seeking approval of a giant bond issue and a future tax increase.
Auditors found that chief of the legal division, Robert Wilson, had permitted "inappropriate" paid absences worth at least $74,000. He was questioned by legislators today.
The Highway Commission went into executive session after the audit session, however, so .....
UPDATE: Goins reports the Highway Commission has placed Wilson on paid administrative leave while an investigation continues of the time-off practices.
UPDATE II: Stephens Media says Wilson told legislators the practice had been approved by higher-ups back to the 1990s, though incoming Highway Director Scott Bennett said he interpreted comments made then as intended to be sure employees were compensated for time worked. Murphy also said Wilson had not been cooperative with the internal investigation. He appeared at today's session with a personal lawyer. More reporting and video from Talk Business.