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State Auditor Nabs Fresno State Groundskeepers for $111,000
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By Bill McEwen, News Director
Published 6 years ago on
July 24, 2018

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You’d think by now that California state employees who sleep on the job, leave their posts early or buy unauthorized stuff would realize that State Auditor Elaine M. Howle and her staff are watching.

Portrait of Elaine Howle
“Two employees at California State University, Fresno failed to perform their work duties for thousands of hours during a period of at least five years. From 2013 through 2017, these two employees failed to account for more than 5,100 hours by taking extended breaks and leaving campus without permission. This misuse of state time cost the State more than $111,000 in salary paid for work not performed.”
— State Auditor Elaine M. Howle
But state employees keep thinking they can fleece taxpayers. And they keep getting caught.
Howle issued her office’s latest “Investigations of Improper Activities by State Agencies and Employees report” July 24 and heading the list were two Fresno State employees.
“For example, two employees at California State University, Fresno failed to perform their work duties for thousands of hours during a period of at least five years. From 2013 through 2017, these two employees failed to account for more than 5,100 hours by taking extended breaks and leaving campus without permission,” Howle wrote in a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown and other state leaders. “This misuse of state time cost the State more than $111,000 in salary paid for work not performed. In addition, the employees’ managers failed to ensure that these two employees performed their work.”
Deeper in the report, the alleged offenders are identified by the auditor’s office as “two employees (who) have worked at Fresno State for more than 20 years as groundskeepers in the facilities operations department and are responsible primarily for operating small tractors, backhoes, and mowers.”
 

Fresno State Aided Probe

The report states that Fresno State assisted in the investigation and turned up a third employee — who is related to one of the offending groundskeepers — cruising on the taxpayer’s dime.
How did things turn out?
“In March 2018, Fresno State reported that since January 2018, it has required Employees A and B to report to a lead employee who will ensure that they perform their duties and account for their time. It also informed us that it issued 12-week unpaid suspensions to both Employees A and B. In addition, it stated that it investigated Employee B’s relative for time and attendance abuse and also issued a 12-week suspension to the relative after the investigation substantiated the time abuse. In May 2018, Fresno State stated that it was exploring its legal options for recovering funds paid to the employees for time they did not work.”

Auditor’s Analysis of Surveillance Records of Two Fresno State Employees

Screen capture of state auditor probe into Fresno State groundskeepers

DMV Employee Sleeps on the Job

And then there was a key data operator at the Department of Motor Vehicles.
No kidding, she literally slept on the job — possibly because of a suspected medical condition.
States the report: “(She) failed to perform her essential duties over a period of nearly four years because she slept at her desk for extended periods of time during work hours. We estimated that from February 2014 through December 2017, the employee misused more than 2,200 hours of work time as a result of sleeping on the job, costing the State more than $40,000.”

Jim Patterson
“DMV employees are likely just as frustrated as I am. I’ve had calls from several of them who are begging for accountability and change at the DMV. I expect the audit I have requested due to the exploding wait times will uncover major systemic issues that have frustrated both the customers and the employees. I hope it can be a catalyst for real change.— Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R-Fresno)
This item quickly caught the attention of Fresno Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R-Fresno). He is on a crusade to clean up the DMV.
“While the Auditor’s report appears to show this employee may have had a legitimate medical problem, this clearly shows there are serious issues with the management of the DMV,” Patterson said. “A supervisor allowing an employee to sleep on the job for nearly four years is an example.”
“DMV employees are likely just as frustrated as I am. I’ve had calls from several of them who are begging for accountability and change at the DMV. I expect the audit I have requested due to the exploding wait times will uncover major systemic issues that have frustrated both the customers and the employees. I hope it can be a catalyst for real change.”

No Discipline For DMV Employee

The $40,000 lost by taxpayers won’t be recovered.
In a nutshell, the employee wasn’t disciplined because her supervisors failed to properly manage her.
From the audit: “the DMV stated that in March 2018 — after the completion of this investigation — it issued to the employee a corrective memorandum that contains the necessary language that will allow it to issue an adverse action to her if she does not correct her behavior.”
You can read more of the investigative highlights at this link.
 

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Bill McEwen,
News Director
Bill McEwen is news director and columnist for GV Wire. He joined GV Wire in August 2017 after 37 years at The Fresno Bee. With The Bee, he served as Opinion Editor, City Hall reporter, Metro columnist, sports columnist and sports editor through the years. His work has been frequently honored by the California Newspapers Publishers Association, including authoring first-place editorials in 2015 and 2016. Bill and his wife, Karen, are proud parents of two adult sons, and they have two grandsons. You can contact Bill at 559-492-4031 or at Send an Email

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