Shelby Co. (ECWd) -
Over the last several weeks we have been requesting key records as it relates to payroll and how such payroll records are kept. The results are shocking.
According to the Sheriff, he had not read the FOP contract prior to signing it. When asked about overpayments being made on the payroll he said he does not handle payroll and can't really address those concerns. Based on the information we gathered it appears the excess in payroll vs time worked could exceed $300,000.00 since 2015. That information was confirmed with the County Treasurer. We understand the State's attorney has advised the Board of the overpayments during a recent meeting.
The primary problem is no one is keeping actual records as to when a person begins and stops work. In short, they are not clocking in or out. When there is no record of actual hours worked, how they determine what is or is not actual overtime is unknown.
Another issue is the payroll is not following state law as it relates to when they get paid. Currently, all county employees are getting paid, but not strictly based on hours worked but rather hours they claim to work in the future. Such a process is inconsistent with the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act.
(820 ILCS 115/4) (from Ch. 48, par. 39m-4)
Sec. 4. All wages earned by any employee during a semi-monthly or bi-weekly pay period shall be paid to such employee not later than 13 days after the end of the pay period in which such wages were earned. All wages earned by any employee during a weekly pay period shall be paid not later than 7 days after the end of the weekly pay period in which the wages were earned. All wages paid on a daily basis shall be paid insofar as possible on the same day as the wages were earned, or not later in any event than 24 hours after the day on which the wages were earned. Wages of executive, administrative and professional employees, as defined in the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, may be paid on or before 21 calendar days after the period during which they are earned.
The law is clear and outlines wages are to be earned before being paid. Currently, Shelby County pays a portion of payroll in advance which is inconsistent with state law.
The Shelby County Treasurer, Erica Firnhaber has been trying to address this problem for over a year and appears to finally be breaking through past roadblocks. During the last County Board meeting, it was confirmed she is right and the matter needs to be fixed.
While the fix is simple, the resistance is, let's just say shocking. Our requests for actual timesheets for Sheriff's office employees have resulted in no such records. Rather than time sheets reflecting when a person actually works, we recieved a new shift schedule with people's names on it. Such a record is not sufficient under the Fair Labor Law standards regarding the recording of time worked. In addition to the shift schedule they are going to implement, the following statement was provided.
"During a recent self examination of all work schedules due to your inquiries, we realized the Deputies schedule with rotating days off and hours worked resulted in them working under 80 hrs. in some pay periods. The attached schedule for Deputies will take effect immediately to ensure they are working 80 hrs. in the current pay period. Thank you."
One would think a routine audit would have identified this problem long before our inquiry. Our first question that comes to mind is how are the overpayments that have been made going to be recovered? We asked the sheriff about this and he had no answer, other than to reference that maybe the insurance errors and omissions coverage might cover it.
A week after that admission, we recieved this letter. Key points bulleted below with our concerns on the points from the letter.
- "...regarding the deputies' time sheets we discovered that inadvertently the deputies were being paid for 80 hours of work when they were not working the full 80 hours."
Considering there are no timesheets we are not surprised deputies are being paid for more hours than actually worked. As far as that being something that happened "inadvertently", we'll leave that determination up to the public.
- "What is happening is that depending on when the pay period falls one shift will have worked 80 hours while the opposite only worked 60 hours. This would repeat for the following pay period and then switch. The average over a full cycle of this would be 70 hours per pay period."
Considering there are two pay periods each month (2 months have 3 payrolls), it appears they are admitting to employees having worked 140 hrs yet getting paid for 160 hrs.
- "So, while we assumed that the hours worked was still hours per week, it's actually averaging 35 hours, the standard work week for the majority of the County offices."
We "assumed" the hours worked...? This very statement is why time cards must be kept for hourly employees of local governments. In this case, they are "assuming" 35 hours a week are being worked. One serious problem with that is these people are being paid for a 40 hours work week.
According to the FOP contract, they shall be scheduled to work on a regular five (5) day work shift in a seven day period. While shifts may be rotated, it says nothing about only having to work the hours of the majority of the county offices.
From the FOP Contract:
Section 20.3. Work Schedule
All employees shall be scheduled to work on a regular five (5) day work shift In a seven (7) day period. An employee may be scheduled to work forty (40) hours in a seven (7) day period. Shifts may be rotated pursuant to management needs. The Employer reserves the right to review and alter shifts every ninety (90) days. All hours worked or compensated shall count towards the forty (40) hours in a work week.
- "We do not believe that any Deputy was being overcompensated for the amount worked. To the contrary, when we calculated overtime pay, we assumed an 80 hour pay period and divided their compensation by 80 when we should have been dividing it by 70."
How does one "calculate" overtime when there is no record of regular time? This is yet another statement based on speculation rather than actual time cards. "We do not believe", "we assumed". They appear to be creating a narrative that fits their actions of creating a schedule which resulted in fewer hours worked while still getting paid for 80 hrs.
Why they think they should be dividing their compensation by 70 is beyond our understanding because the contract specifically outlines a 40 hour work week.
- "Per the contract, overtime/compensatory time is accrued when a deputy works over their scheduled shift of 10 hours. It is not based on whether they work over the standard work week."
Considering the Sheriff's office does not keep any time cards for their employees that actually show hours worked, how on earth do they know when they actually worked beyond their contractual 8 hr workday. One compensatory time record points to a person earning 86 hours in one month yet there is no record of any actual regular hours worked.
- "Rather than the deputies being overcompensated on their base pay we believe they may be been shorted on their overtime."
While they may believe they were shortened on overtime, their own admission and public records point to pay for hours not worked, not to mention the State's Attorney has already advised the County Board of the overpayments.
- "This is something that we are still investigating and going to be discussing with the deputies once we know more. Of course, all of this was incidental to the scheduling change that we implemented years ago."
Not sure what discussion needs to be had with deputies as the FOP contract is what it is. They shall be scheduled to work on a regular five-day work shift in a seven day period. The simple solution is to start keeping time cards to track actual hours worked.
- "We want to thank you for your FOIA request, without it we would not have noticed the oversight."
While we appreciate that our inquiry shined a light on this matter, we have a hard time understanding how this can be viewed as an "oversight". Considering taxpayers are picking up the tab for payroll to be managed at the Sheriff's office we would call this issue incompetence at a minimum. The criminal code covering the misapplication of funds comes to mind.
Considering most people know when their paycheck is short, we are confident those same people "know" when they are getting overpaid.
- "We will be implementing new processes for not only how the deputies are scheduled, but also how their time is tracked in order to be more efficient going forward."
We look forward to seeing actual time cards in the future as there is no other way to determine the hour's people worked and that must be known before overtime can be paid. As it stands, there are no records to support hours worked so claims of overtime due have no way of being confirmed with a public record.
Stay tuned for more news out of Shelby County.