During its regular meeting Dec. 26, the Van Zandt County Commissioners Court heard a report from their appointed committee regarding recommendations made in an audit by the U. S. Department of Labor regarding overtime pay in the VZC Sheriff’s Department.
VZC Human Resource Director Dan Maucieri gave the report to the commissioners’ court on behalf of the committee that was appointed by VZC Judge Don Kirkpatrick Dec. 12.
Committee members included Maucieri, VZC Commissioners Administrator Susan Strickland, Shay Melton from the VZC Auditor’s office, Buster Leavell from the VZC Sheriff’s Department and VZC citizen and realtor Bob Reese.
“This report will give you a rundown of what happened and what we found,” said Maucieri to the commissioners’ court. “The committee studied information from personnel files, treasurer’s records of payroll and time sheets as well as our net data record keeping system with a focus on the records within the time period identified by DOL Investigator Sylvia King. Our charge was to uncover any back wages that may be due to current or prior employees who worked as jailers anytime between Sept. 17, 2016 and Sept. 1, 2018.
“When the DOL conducted their audit, Ms. King discovered that some jailers arrived for a shift and annotated a certain hour on their time sheet. Let’s use 7 a.m. as an example. At the end of their 12-hour shift, they annotated the time, say 7 p.m., but stayed up to another 10 minutes to brief the oncoming shift.
“In the investigator’s opinion, there is the potential some employees worked but were not paid for time on some days. She stated that VZC should check the records for any jailer employee who worked greater than 86 hours in a pay period and pay those employees an extra 10 minutes per shift for every day in the pay period where the jailer recorded 86 or more work hours in that pay period. That is what our committee investigated.”
Maucieri also presented a summary in his report to the commissioners’ court. “Of the 85 employees who worked as jailers during that date range, 60 fit the parameters laid out by the investigator and 25 did not meet the parameters,” pointed out Maucieri. “Based on employee records and computed pay amounts for the time period, the potential cost to the county is $9,154.67. That figure means an average of $152.57 may be due to eligible employees.”
“This committee worked a combined manpower total of 120 hours on this study,” said Maucieri. “We have made several recommendations to you. I need to deliver this to you and then, the commissioners’ court should discuss at some point how we are going to pay that money back and when we are going to pay it back. I would like to submit this report to the DOL auditor and have her attend the next session of the commissioners’ court where you can discuss when we will be able to pay this amount.”
VZC Pct. 2 Commissioner Virgil Melton Jr. asked Maucieri, “The 10 minutes were not noted on their time cards,” said Melton. “Any reason why they did not put the 10 minutes on there?”
Maucieri responded, “In the investigator’s opinion, she felt like that some jailers put down a time when their shift was supposed to stop but that they needed to stay longer in order to communicate with an oncoming shift. They did not believe that they could add that extra 10 minutes. I don’t have any statements from any jailer who said that they worked overtime but were not paid. The investigator did not share any statements that she may have had from any of the people that she spoke to during her investigation.”
VZC Pct. 4 Commissioner Tim West asked Maucieri, “Is there a possibility that she is wrong?” and Maucieri responded, “Yes.”
Reese shared a paragraph from the summary of the report that read, “The committee agreed that there was potential that the method required by DOL had some errors that might save some expense to the county if adjusted, however, it was apparent from talking with the investigator and her supervisor that the process to challenge their formula would require filing a federal lawsuit. Based on the estimated additional payroll cost to the county of $9,154.67 due to jailers by the DOL formula, the county would save more than that in potential legal fees, would foster goodwill with jailers by paying now with the DOL formula and would enable the opportunity to get the matter behind us for time spent on more productive use of county resources. It will also allow VZC to correct some of the time tracking shortcomings to fairly compensate all department employees and prevent the ambiguities resulting in another audit.”
Reese also shared one of the recommendations in the committee’s report that stated, “Highly recommend some form of electronic, online and/ or phone app time-keeping for all county employees requiring time tracking records by the DOL in order to eliminate time sheet errors or omissions and ease the workload for the treasurer’s office when computing time for payroll.”
“We think this was somewhat of a misunderstanding on the employee’s part and maybe the training by supervisors that if you are working, whether your shift has ended or not, you are still on the clock until you leave your post basically,” commented Reese to the commissioners’ court. “That could apply to any non-exempt hourly employee in the county. By having adequate training and a better time tracking system, we believe that this would eliminate the problem in the future.”
Following a recommendation by Maucieri, the commissioners’ court took no action on the report but authorized Maucieri to send the report to the DOL and invite the investigator to come and attend the next regular meeting of the commissioners’ court which is scheduled for 9 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019, in the VZC Courthouse.
“When the decision is made as to when to pay the amount, the DOL can begin to close their investigation,” pointed out Maucieri. “You have up to 90 days to pay a prior employee. So far as a current employee is concerned, you have only until the next payroll period directly after the DOL closes its investigation.”
Melton asked Maucieri if the county will be facing any kind of fine as a result of the DOL investigation.
Maucieri responded, “There is a good probability but the investigator herself has indicated that she will not impose a fine but the DOL, especially their Dallas office, could assess us a fine. That is really based on the fact that this is the fifth time that they have investigated our county. They investigated in 1992, 1993 and 1994 where there were four instances. You have a record.”
The court also:
—approved the annual report of the VZC Historical Commission and the 2019 list of appointed board members;
—approved a series of fiscal year 2018 budget amendments were approved
—approved the November 2018 Financial & Investment Report of the VZC treasurer;
—a list of board members to serve in VZC Emergency Service Districts 1, 2, 3 and 4 were approved;
—a $200 fee regarding on-site sewer facility reinspection was approved;
—approved bills for payment as submitted.