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Archive for Friday, August 18, 2006

Payroll error gives thousands extra to firefighters

August 18, 2006

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— A payroll error caused the city of Pittsburg to overpay its firefighters $122,260 in a 16-month period, the city has acknowledged, although no evidence of intentional wrongdoing was found, the city said Wednesday.

The errors that led to the overpayments between Jan. 1, 2005, and May 2006 have been corrected, Pittsburg City Manager Allen Gill said in a written statement.

Gill delivered the statement to The Morning Sun in Pittsburg after the newspaper submitted an Open Records request Tuesday asking for pay scales and pay rates of firefighters.

Thirty of the city's 34 firefighters were overpaid an average of $4,075, which does not include the price of benefits. The $122,260 overpayment represents about 7.1 percent of the total payroll for the Pittsburg Fire Department.

The problem occurred in overtime payments, Gill's statement said. Federal labor laws allow firefighters to work up to 212 hours in 28 days without being paid overtime. All overtime hours are to be paid at 1.5 times the regular rate.

The error involved counting overtime at the 1.5 rate, but also as straight time, meaning firefighters were paid 2.5 times the regular rate, the newspaper reported. That means a firefighter making $10 an hour was paid $25 per hour for every hour of overtime, when he or she should have been paid $15 per hour.

The error began when Pittsburg started a new pay formula after some firefighters sued the city for unpaid overtime.

Gill's statement said when the error was first discovered, it was thought to affect only a few hours of overtime. An internal investigation determined it involved all overtime worked.

After that internal investigation, Gill ordered a complete audit. He said no violations of federal overtime requirements were found.

The final audit also found no evidence of intentional misuse of city funds or of fraud or theft. No evidence was found to suggest the firefighters were responsible for the overpayments, city auditors said.

Gill confirmed that David Zacharias, the city's director of human resources, resigned Monday, but would not comment on whether the resignation was connected to the audit.

The city has now transferred payroll processing from the Human Resources Department to the Finance Department. And procedures are being established to verify payroll inputs before payments are processed.

Gill refused to comment on whether the city would try to be reimbursed for the overpayments, if it would pursue a lawsuit, or whether other city departments would be audited.

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