Covering Louisiana

Dec 16, 2011 11:15 AM by AP

Monroe audit prompts change to city payroll

MONROE, La. (AP) - Since payroll fraud allegations were raised last year and auditors discovered time sheets weren't kept according to city standards by some employees, Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo said the city has implemented changes.

Mayo says many of the problems were related to training, so employees have now been trained to file their time sheets properly.

City spokesman Rod Washington tells The News-Star said the reason for the training was to make sure the timekeeper was placing the correct amount of time entered on the payroll time sheets and leave slips.

"The Engineering timekeeper had not received the necessary formal training (regarding) the best way to handle the payroll time sheets. She was previously handling this task in the manner picked up from her review of the time sheet paperwork handled by her predecessors(s)," he said.

Last year, then-human resources director Mike Rhymes raised concern over City Engineer Sinyale Morrison's overtime payment practices and policies when he conducted an investigation into whether one engineering employee was eligible for disability leave.

That prompted the state's Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera to take a closer look at the department's payroll records. Purpera's audit report, released to the public Monday, showed payroll records such as time sheets, leave requests and overtime sheets didn't match employee pay records and, in some cases, employees didn't have signatures to verify their overtime or leaves were approved.

Purpera said Morrison and some of her employees may have violated state law, though that has yet to be proven.

Mayo has said the city is waiting to hear from the 4th District Attorney's Office about the investigation state police have launched into the criminal allegations raised by the audit. However, he said the city has addressed issues that may have been violations of city policy.

"When a violation of city policy happens, and there is not a reasonable explanation ... we take action," Mayo said. "As to policy violations set forth in the auditor's report, the city has undertaken steps to correct some of the problems they mentioned."

For instance, Morrison said, in December 2010, the Engineering Department discontinued the policy of paying employees a preset number of hours per pay period of call-out pay.

The record-keeping issues have been addressed as well.

City Attorney Nanci Summersgill said each department has an employee designated to take care of their payroll/time sheets.

Morrison said starting May 2011, the designated employee in charge of payroll in the Engineering Department received training from the Accounting Division on how best to handle the payroll time sheets and required signatures.

A 1996 memo from Administration Director David Barnes that outlines the city's timekeeping policy states that timekeepers are to ensure that a correctly completed leave request is maintained for all instances of leave and compensatory time off. The request must be matched with the time sheets submitted for payroll calculation.

"If time sheet information does not correspond to leave request information, documentation for the reason for the difference or the corrective measures taken must be on file for auditor verification," the memo states. "Timekeepers are instructed to ensure proper signatures and dates are completed on all leave requests."

The audit report states Purpera found there were instances when there was no proper documentation or the necessary signatures for some employees' leave.

The city's policy is that department directors must have the signature of the mayor, division heads and supervisors are to have the signature of the department director, and all other employees need to have the signature of the division director or supervisor.

"Where instances of continued noncompliance with policy or procedures are found, management will be notified for administrative action," the memo states.

Accounting Director Staycie Haynie said the computer system automatically flags people who haven't accrued enough leave time for what has been recorded on their time sheet.

Washington said after the allegations were raised, Haynie looked at the way Engineering was handling its payroll issues. It wasn't wrong, she said, just different than the way other departments were handling their payroll. She suggested a better way for the Engineering Department to handle its payroll procedures, for instance, having the payroll coordinator email to the department's timekeeper each employee's dockage, rather than informing her through a phone call.

"Currently our time sheets do not have a column for `leave without pay' even though that is an option on our `leave forms."' Haynie said.



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