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City employees worked few hours from West Coast, Europe, yet got full checks, according to OIG report

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Posted at 2:56 PM, Jun 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-25 14:56:48-04

BALTIMORE — Two Department of Housing and Community Development employees were found to have continued being compensated and working as full-time employees despite moving out of Maryland and actually contributing a few hours of work each pay period, according to a report by the Office of the Inspector General.

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An investigation by the OIG determined both employees were allowed to work limited hours, contributing remotely, while maintaining full-time status and earning more than $90,000 annual each. The employees also were able to utilized benefits and compensatory time. The report says they participated in only a few hours of work each week, doing so remotely, yet they used accrued leave time to earn full paychecks.

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A senior DHCD manager authorized that both employees could use their accrued leave to work remotely and supplement their hours each pay period, the OIG report said. The manager admitted to not properly reviewing and approving time sheets for the two employees, instead providing a DHCD timekeeper access to enter and approve timesheet for both employees, which is a violation of City policy. The use of sick leave when employees are not sick is also a violation of City policy.

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The OIG report said one employee left the state and relocated to the West Coast in August of 2018, yet that employee remained on the department’s payroll until November of 2018. The other employee left the country entirely, relocating to Europe in September of 2018 and remaining on the books until February of 2019.

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The employee who moved west said she still worked for DHCD for five months, remotely training and on boarding her replacement, working an average of 15 hours a week and using accrued leave time to flesh out her timecards. All told, she submitted 139 hours of leave, 40 of which were sick time, though she never reported she was sick.

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The expatriated employee said he went to Europe to pursue academic studies, the OIG report said. He told DHCD he was going to leave, and he said he was encouraged to continue on in some capacity. An informal agreement allowed him to work a few hours each week and submit compensatory time for the rest of his time. Between Sept. 1 and Nov. 1 2018, he worked 4.25 hours a week. He did not work at all between Nov. 2, 2018 and Jan. 2, 2019, and then he worked about two hours a week from Jan. 3, to Feb. 11, 2019. In all, he used 617 hours of leave, including 272 hours of sick leave despite never reporting an illness.

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The report calculates the combined loss to the city as $14,840.88. The Europe-based employee reimburse the city the net amount of the sick time payout, totaling $8,656.29.

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In a letter to the OIG, the Director of DHCD Michael Braverman said the prolonged issue occurred “during a time of transition for the agency. During that time, it was the intent of the Chief of Staff to ensure the critical operations of the agency were not interrupted while the agency worked through both the transition and the work of departing employees. Unfortunately, there was a miscommunication in the instructions given to staff during this time resulting in agency procedures not being properly adhered to, resulting in the errors.”

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Braverman’s letter acknowledged the repayment and said “training has been provided to managers and staff on proper Time and Attendance policies and procedures to follow, so that we can ensure that these errors will not occur in the future.”