Work hours oversight won't be investigated, say school officials

Officials with the Richmond County School System said they are not opening an investigation to determine how seven retirees worked more hours than allowed by law over a four-year period, which resulted in the district’s having to pay a $241,000 fine last month to the Teacher Retirement System of Georgia.

Superintendent Frank Roberson said that his staff has written new procedures to ensure the mistake does not occur again but that he has not been instructed by the Board of Education to open an investigation.

It is still unclear, however, how the oversight occurred. Roberson, human resources officials, school board members and accounting staffers could not explain how the retirees worked more than allowed or who was responsible for monitoring their schedules.

“I would be speculating if I were to say it,” Roberson said.

The seven worked more than the half-time allowed at various points between fiscal years 2008 and 2012 – all in nonteaching positions – while still collecting pensions.

The law permits former employees who weren’t teachers to work full time for three months after retirement, but after that they can work only less than 49 percent of the position’s full-time schedule.

For example, retiree Dorothy James worked almost 160 hours a month as a Title I consultant at various times between 2007 and 2011. She worked 168 hours in February and August 2011 and 136 hours in June of that year.

She worked less in 2012, but still accumulated 89 hours in July 2012, the last month she worked for the district, according to documents obtained by The Augusta Chronicle from a Georgia Open Records request.

Valerie Sherman also worked what is considered full time as a special education clerk, accumulating 128 hours in May 2009 and 120 hours in August 2012.

Board of Education President Venus Cain said that there are still questions about how the oversight occurred but that an investigation might prove futile. She said she wishes someone would “admit they dropped the ball,” but unless that takes place an investigation would be lengthy and costly.

“Do we want to waste taxpayer money to get to the truth when we may never get to the truth?” Cain said. “I don’t think we’re going to get it. ... I think there’s a culture in the system when they drop the ball, no one wants to stand up and say it or throw anybody under the bus.”

Cain said that as a school board member, by law she is unable to personally interview various employees about the issue.

She assumes a mix-up might have occurred around 2008 during a reorganization in the human resources department.

Board member Frank Dolan said he would like to see an investigation into the matter, mostly because he is unclear how such an oversight could be a mistake.

He said even if a reorganization changed certain employees’ duties, someone should have been responsible for keeping track of the hours worked by retirees.

“Somebody should be reprimanded or demoted or chastised or written up,” Dolan said. “You can’t say ‘Hold on, we lost a quarter-million dollars, let’s go get a cup of coffee.’ ”

Roberson said he is confident the new policy will prevent another oversight. Now, any retirees rehired will be coded in the computer payroll system to indicate they are retired and the restrictions of their position.

Returning employees also will sign an agreement detailing their restrictions, and the human resources department will meet annually with administrators to keep them up to date about the work limitation of retirees.

Anita Faglier, the director of finance and accounting said that before, there was no alert in the payroll system that identified employees as retired.

“Needless to say, we cannot afford these types of penalties,” Roberson said. “There’s no margin for error. This certainly cannot be tolerated again.” 

Richmond County school board approves revised retiree work protocol to prevent another costly mistake
Richmond County schools must pay $241,000 to state retirement system

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