Fort Worth

3 Fort Worth trustees demand tighter payroll controls

Three Fort Worth school trustees demanded tighter controls Tuesday night over district overtime and employee payroll practices after an internal audit found that some employees racked up thousands of dollars in overtime, including one supervisor who was paid more than $55,000 in overtime.

“The public is very upset” about the audit’s findings, Trustee Ann Sutherland said. “They do not think this has been managed properly.

“I’m very troubled by this, and I wish I had more confidence that we are going to see some changes, but I’m just not that confident.”

Board member Tobi Jackson said she wants to see regular reports about overtime hours claimed by employees. And board member Matthew Avila said the district needs to look at guidelines on overtime pay.

On March 3, the district’s internal audit department released a report that some employees were adjusting their own timecards, receiving duplicate pay and claiming thousands of dollars in overtime. The audit, led by the district’s chief internal auditor, Steve Shepherd, cautioned district officials about the increase in overtime from fiscal 2011 to 2012. About half — $2.2 million — of the district’s total overtime costs were paid to 269 employees.

The audit reviewed payroll practices from July 1, 2012, to June 30, 2013.

Superintendent Walter Dansby told trustees that the district has no proof that any employee committed fraud by falsifying a timecard.

“The fact is, that’s what the public really wants to know,” Dansby said.

Shepherd said he found no examples of fraud.

“The management here is very proactive to address the concerns we bring here,” Shepherd said. “Management here takes these recommendations seriously.”

District administrators agreed with every recommendation in the audit except one to cap overtime at 260 hours per employee per year. In 2012, the audit says, some individual employees were paid more than 500 hours of overtime.

Overtime has to be preapproved, said Hank Johnson, assistant superintendent of business and finance. “But I didn’t concur with the recommendation,” Johnson said. “There are some things that tie our hands if we’re not real careful.”

Dansby had said that the district would require supervisors to approve overtime before the work is completed. He also said that if an employee earned more than $2,000 in overtime during a single payroll period, the employee must submit a written explanation to internal auditors and the payroll department.

The board’s discussion of the payroll audit grew heated at times Tuesday.

At one point, board President Christene Moss interrupted Jackson when she began to discuss some of her concerns.

“I’m a lot disturbed,” Jackson said

Moss then addressed Johnson.

“Mr. Johnson, would you follow up with Ms. Jackson?” Moss said.

At another point, Johnson told board members that the district already has procedures that required supervisors to collect documentation for employees who were permitted to work overtime. Other checks and balances are also in place, Johnson said.

“We want to make sure that we tighten the reins on the process,” Johnson said.

Avila wasn’t satisfied with Johnson’s explanation.

“We’ve got to have some systems in place and some ways to measure, you know, and train those supervisors to make sure” overtime is not being abused, Avila said.

“I didn’t hear a whole lot of that. Sure, it’s something you’re working on and I would like to hear about it.”

Bottom line, Avila said, “How do we know managers and supervisors are doing [regulating overtime] properly? If it’s in place, we’re not here talking about this.”