Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Lessons learned

Sometimes, things work out.

Just about a year ago peculiarities in the city's payroll system came to light. This happened, it must be noted, because of the research done by Trenton United blogger Robert Chilson.

One situation that he discovered was that (then) director of public property Harold Hall had collected overtime and double time pay in the first three months of 2011.

Mr. Hall, who in September was promoted to acting director of public works by Mayor Mack, is paid a salary of about $108,000 per year.  He is a salaried (not hourly) political appointee. As a rule, salaried employees do not collect overtime as an hourly employee does.

In February and March of 2011, Mr. Hall twice received "double time" compensation for hours worked beyond his normal 35 hour work week.  Three time in the same period, Hall received regular overtime (1.5 times his normal rate of pay) for hours worked beyond his regular 35 hour work week.

Payroll records indicate that in the check dated February 3, 2011, Hall received pay for a total of 93.5 hours. We understand that there were weather situations (snow storms) that required an extra effort on the part of the administration to oversee snow removal and such, but it is part of the Mr. Hall's job as a director to work the required time for no extra monetary compensation. Getting paid for 23.5 extra hours was wrong. Getting paid for 23.5 hours of extra time at a higher rate of compensation was more wrong. Hall was paid for 19.5 hours of overtime and four hours of "double overtime" during that pay period. That amounts to just over $2200 extra in one paycheck.

The next pay period, Hall received pay for 13.5 hours of overtime. This equaled an extra $1200 in that paycheck.

In the check issued March 31, 2011, Hall received an additional $1600 dollars in pay split between nine hours of "double overtime" and six hours of overtime.

Finally, the check issued on April 28, 2011 shows that $1526 in overtime was included. This was for an additional 17 hours worked over the regular 70 hours in the pay period.

All totaled, Hall received over $9200 in extra pay from the city that was improper.

In reviewing Hall's payroll records before and since the discovery of his extra pay, we have learned an interesting fact. Mr. Hall's pay was garnished to the tune of $562.87 every two weeks from June through December of last year. This means he paid back some $8400 of the money. (NOTE: we do not have an explanation for the $778 he didn't pay back, but assume it may have to do with some of the payroll deductions, etc.) Kudos to the powers that be (whichever ones came into play) that made this repayment happen.

While none of the money funny business is good news, the fact that it came to light because of the dedicated work of a government watchdog is. This is a prime example how necessary citizen activism is to a healthy civic infrastructure.

Without the work of concerned citizens, government is less accountable.

Who knows how much more money might have been improperly paid to Harold Hall?

Who knows if any of it would ever have been paid back?

Irresponsibility is NOT doing the right thing.


Robert Chilson said...

Glad to hear he has paid most of the money back and thank you for your kind words.

I sincerely hope that inspired citizens heed the call and get involved!

Old Mill Hill said...

Credit where credit is due.

Anonymous said...

Over $9000 dollars that was basically stolen and the man is still working for the city. A retired policeman who knew it was stealing.I do not care that it has almost been paid back, which is a good thing, what I care about is the fact if it were almost any other person we would be sitting in jail. That was Hall, what about the rest of the crew that was stealing with timecard fraud. It seems to be acceptable for Mack's people steal and not get as much as a wrist slap. The question is WHY haven't the authorities taken action. We have missing tents, missing boat ramp money, missing vehicles that can't be accounted for and who knows what else. We need a independent forensic audit on just about every department the city has. Robert has done a wonderful job uncovering some of the deceitful practices in the mayors office, what about the ones that haven't been uncovered yet?

Lamberton Lilly said...

Was the garnishment levied by the city or was Mr. Hall behind in something like child support? If it was Trenton, I'm most of the money was recouped, but what about the rest of it? Just wondering.

Old Mill Hill said...

Anoymous, you have raised some valid questions for which we have no answers at this time.

The larger question here is where are the agencies who are supposed to watch out for abuses like the ones you have enumerated?

Why have they not stood up and taken an interest in the obvious fiscal funny business going on in City Hall?

What can/needs to be done to get law enforcement involved in these matters?

Old Mill Hill said...

Ms. Lilly, As best we can tell from the records provided, yes, the City garnished the wages. The deductions are labled "Minus Retro" and begin appearing a couple of pay periods after the excess pay was brought to light. Further, there is a paycheck that included overtime pay that was reversed and recalculated which indicates to us that someone recognized the problem and set about correcting it.

As for the difference in what was paid out and then collected back, we can only hazard the guess expressed in the original post that it had something to do with taxes or other witholding. We are not really sure and not certain that an open and honest answer would be provided to such a direct question.