Sheriff employees double-dipped at State Fair, audit finds

By: Dan Way - Carolina Journal

RALEIGH — Wake County Sheriff’s Office personnel double-dipped by claiming their normal work pay while getting off-duty compensation for working at the State Fair, a report by State Auditor Beth Wood concludes.

The audit, released Tuesday, shows a law enforcement agency in bookkeeping disarray, and the disorder continued beyond the 2013-15 audit period into 2016.

The Sheriff’s Office made at least $6,300 in overpayments to 56 employees for 205 hours of off-duty work at the fair. The audit didn’t name the workers, instead listing their ranks from patrol officer and crime analysts up the ladder to sergeants, lieutenants, and captains.

In his response, Sheriff Donnie Harrison accepted the findings and recommendations, stating, “I take full responsibility for the deficiencies identified by the audit.”

He said his office did its own internal review after learning that a complaint had been filed with the Auditor’s Office alleging deputies routinely falsified time records while working at the state fair.

“All of the overlapping hours identified in the report for our current members have been paid back by adjusting the member’s leave balance,” Harrison said. “Our own internal review did not lead us to conclude that these errors were intentional or made with any criminal intent; these errors were the result of a lack of oversight and review.”

A self-audit was conducted of the 2016 state fair, and similar errors were discovered and immediately corrected, Harrison said.

While taking responsibility for the discrepancies, and lack of controls to catch them, Harrison attempted to put the problem in the best light possible.

He said 449 Sheriff’s Office personnel logged more than 56,000 hours at the state fair during the audit period, and were paid more than $1.4 million. The overlapping hours discovered by the audit amounted to less than one-half of 1 percent of the total hours worked.

However, the audit made clear, there could have been even more pay irregularities. At least 65 employees were paid for hours that “potentially overlapped” with state fair pay. “However, because the Sheriff’s Office did not maintain complete time and leave records, the potential overlapping payments could not be determined, and could be higher.”

A Carolina Journal review of those 65 employees showed they were paid for at least 864 hours by the Sheriff’s Office while the fair paid them for 1,552 hours of work. Those employees ranged in rank from patrol officers to sergeants, lieutenants, captains, and majors.

It is likely the Sheriff’s Office could have paid even more hours than those listed, because there were 56 entries for salaried employees, whose pay is not tracked on an hourly basis. The fair paid for 473 hours of work to those salaried individuals.

The auditor’s report recommended the Sheriff’s Office 1) develop written policies and procedures for its timekeeping process including compensatory time tracking, review of timesheet accuracy, and scheduling revisions; 2) ensure timekeeping policies and procedures are applied consistently across divisions; 3) verify employees’ availability, and ensure employees charge appropriate leave when working off-duty assignments; and 4) ensure the accuracy of timesheets, compensatory time balances, and work schedules.

The lack of policies and procedures, and inaccuracies and inadequate oversight in timekeeping may go beyond State Fair work, raising the prospect that employees working other off-duty assignments throughout the year collected double pay.

“The scope of this audit was limited to the information that we received on our Hot Line,” said Auditor’s Office spokesman Brad Young. “We cannot speculate on any other occurrences.”

Dan Way

Carolina Journal