Report I2006-2 Summary - September 2006
Investigations of Improper Activities by State Employees:
January 2006 Through June 2006
State employees and departments engaged in improper activities, including the following:
- Improperly claimed and received $17,904 in wages by submitting false time sheets.
- Submitted false time sheets and failed to charge leave balances for 78 hours not worked.
- Used bereavement leave for work missed while incarcerated.
- Failed to obtain licensing required for his position.
State departments have taken the following action in response to previously reported investigations:
- Corrections disciplined five employees for mismanaging state funds.
- Motor Vehicles demoted an employee but did not reduce her salary.
- Corrections required an employee to repay the State for $5,072 in improper travel expenses.
- Although Corrections asserted that it modified its system to track union leave time, it has failed to account for 15,548 hours of union leave at a cost to the State of $589,661.
RESULTS IN BRIEF
The Bureau of State Audits (bureau), in accordance with the California Whistleblower Protection Act (Whistleblower Act) contained in the California Government Code, beginning with Section 8547, receives and investigates complaints of improper governmental activities. The Whistleblower Act defines an "improper governmental activity" as any action by a state agency or employee during the performance of official duties that violates any state or federal law or regulation; that is economically wasteful; or that involves gross misconduct, incompetence, or inefficiency. The Whistleblower Act authorizes the state auditor to investigate allegations of improper governmental activities and to publicly report on substantiated allegations. To enable state employees and the public to report these activities, the bureau maintains the toll-free Whistleblower Hotline (hotline): (800) 952 5665 or (866) 293-8729 (TTY).
If the bureau finds reasonable evidence of improper governmental activity, it confidentially reports the details to the head of the employing agency or to the appropriate appointing authority. The Whistleblower Act requires the employer or appointing authority to notify the bureau of any corrective action taken, including disciplinary action, no later than 30 days after transmittal of the confidential investigative report and monthly thereafter until the corrective action concludes.
This report details the results of the four investigations completed by the bureau or jointly with other state agencies between January 1, 2006, and June 30, 2006, that substantiated complaints. This report also summarizes actions that state entities took as a result of investigations presented here or reported previously by the bureau. Following are examples of the substantiated improper activities and actions the agencies have taken to date.
DEPARTMENT OF FORESTRY AND FIRE PROTECTION
Between January 2004 and December 2005, an employee with the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Forestry) improperly claimed $17,904 in wages for 672 hours he did not work in violation of state law prohibiting individuals from intentionally submitting false claims for payment. Due in part to poor administrative controls and supervision, the employee was able to exploit Forestry's lack of oversight by submitting a majority of his false claims for approval to those who were not his direct supervisor and who had limited firsthand knowledge of his activities.
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS AND REHABILITATION
An employee with the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (Corrections) submitted false claims for wages and received $1,373 for time she did not work. Because she claimed to have worked the time, 78 hours of work she missed in January 2005 and March 2005 were not charged to her leave balances. For example, the employee indicated on her January 2005 time sheet, which was approved by her direct supervisor, that she was absent from work for a total of 56 hours—the amount that should have been charged to her leave balances for that month. However, the employee submitted for payment a different time sheet approved by another employee who was not her direct supervisor and who did not have knowledge of her actual attendance. The employee indicated on this second time sheet that she missed only 24 hours in January 2005. As a result, she received $563 for 32 hours she did not work in January 2005.
DEPARTMENT OF INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS
An employee with the Department of Industrial Relations improperly claimed two days of bereavement leave by indicating that her aunt had died. However, the employee actually was incarcerated in a Los Angeles County jail during those two days.
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS AND REHABILITATION
An employee at Corrections failed to obtain a valid license from the State Board of Psychology (psychology license) as is required for his position. The minimum qualifications for the clinical psychologist position, as established by the State Personnel Board, do not require a candidate to hold a psychology license at the time of examination or appointment; however, a license is required within two years of appointment or within three years under certain extenuating circumstances. The employee was appointed to his position in November 2002 and should have obtained his psychology license by November 2005. As of the date of this report, this employee still had not obtained a license.
PREVIOUSLY REPORTED ISSUES
In response to our report in March 2004 involving the California State Prison, Los Angeles County's failure to ensure that the State was reimbursed for $3,300 in costs the prison staff incurred while providing security for film production activities, Corrections has taken adverse action against five employees that range from rescinding a Career Executive Appointment to reducing an employee's salary by 10 percent for 12 months.
Since our report in March 2005 involving an employee abusing time and attendance, the Department of Motor Vehicles (Motor Vehicles) reported that it demoted the employee two steps. However, Motor Vehicles allowed this employee to remain at her previous salary level.
We also reported in March 2005 that Corrections improperly allowed 25 nurses to receive pay increases associated with inmate supervision. Corrections recently reported that institutions were able to provide documentation to support the pay increase for 12 of the 25 nurses. Corrections established accounts receivable for the remaining 13 nurses. However, Corrections cited current litigation that could prevent any repayments.
In September 2005, we reported that Corrections failed to account for 10,980 hours of union leave time used by three employees. Corrections recently reported that it implemented changes to its tracking of union leave time. However, State Controller's Office records indicate that Corrections failed to account for 4,568 hours for three of its employees who worked on union activities since our last report in addition to the 10,980 hours we previously reported. Overall, Corrections has failed to account for 15,548 hours employees spent on union related activities at a cost to the State of $589,661.
In addition, we previously reported that a Corrections employee changed the location of her headquarters on her travel claims so she could receive reimbursements for travel expenses she was not entitled to receive. Corrections reported that it required the employee to repay the State for the $5,072 in commuting and travel-related costs she was not entitled to receive.
We also reported that the Department of Health Services' (Health Services) contracts and invoices related to the Genetic Disease Branch lacked specifics and cost the State almost $58,000 for services it did not receive from contract workers. Health Services reported that its corrective and adverse action is under review and it has not yet determined which employees should be disciplined.