Politics & Government

Wake deputies got paid twice for work at State Fair

Wake County sheriff’s deputies who worked security at the N.C. State Fair got paid by both the Sheriff’s Office and the fair, according to a report by the state auditor.

Beth Wood, the state auditor, released a report Tuesday morning revealing that 56 employees of the Sheriff’s Office were wrongly paid by the sheriff and the State Fair for the same work hours dating back to 2013.

The Sheriff’s Office for years has provided off-duty security before, during and after the N.C. State Fair in the fall. Wood launched the audit of the Sheriff’s Office last year after receiving a tip on her office’s hotline.

The audit shows the overpayments totaled at least $6,300 for 205 hours of work at the State Fair in October 2013, 2014 and 2015.

“These overpayments were caused by inadequate policies, oversight, and timekeeping,” the report says. “The Fair Labor Standards Act prohibits paying compensation for off-duty hours.”

An internal review of office practices found that similar issues arose last year as well, according to Sheriff Donnie Harrison, who accepted “full responsibility” and said he’s already made policy changes to try to prevent the overlap from happening again.

“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 wrote in a letter to Wood. He noted that the “overlap” hours identified by Wood in her report represents “less than one half of one percent of the total hours worked by our members at the State Fair.”

The audit shows that problems arose because the Sheriff’s Office manually assigned employees to work at the State Fair instead of using its off-duty scheduling system, which it typically uses. And divisions in the office had varying rules for whether an employee could use compensatory time to work at the State Fair.

In a meeting with reporters at his Raleigh office Tuesday afternoon, Harrison said his office’s record-keeping isn’t as good as he thought it was and that some managers didn’t know their employees were working at the fair when they were supposed to be taking comp time.

No one was punished because Wood found no evidence of intentional wrongdoing, Harrison said.

“It definitely wasn’t intentional on anybody’s part,” he said. “It was basically poor record-keeping.”

Wood’s report includes the following examples of overpayment:

▪ In October 2015, the Sheriff’s Office paid a deputy sheriff major $1,715 for 36 hours in which he was also paid by the State Fair. He did not record leave for those hours.

▪ In October 2014, the Sheriff’s Office paid a deputy sheriff master $261 for 11 hours in which he was also paid by the State Fair. He requested in advance to take leave to work at the State Fair, but did not record leave on his Sheriff’s Office timesheet.

▪ In October 2015, the Sheriff’s Office paid a detention officer captain $578 for 16 hours over two days. He said the hours came from his comp-time balance. However, the documentation of comp time was deleted at the end of 2015 and not available to be reviewed and verified.

The report found that the Sheriff’s Office also paid at least 65 employees for hours that potentially overlapped with hours paid by the State Fair.

“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,” the audit says.

Harrison said that he’s already taken steps to implement Wood’s recommendations that the office establish consistent methods of time-keeping and managing employees’ hours.

Paul A. Specht: 919-829-4870, @AndySpecht