Commissioners address payroll issues

by Peter L. McGuire, Staff Writer Sun Journal Sept. 3, 2013

PARIS — Oxford County commissioners have implemented new policies to clear up issues with the county government payroll.

During a commission meeting Aug. 19, Annalee Rosenblatt, an attorney contracted by the commissioners to advise them on human resource issues, advised of seven apparent problems with the way payroll currently works.

In particular, Rosenblatt questioned the absence of a policy to authorize payment requests for work or hours unsupported by a contract or agreement, and said it was unclear who was responsible for checking time sheet accuracy.

In addition, she said it was unclear who was responsible for keeping official records for time off, said some employees were not turning in time sheets or the time sheets were filled out by their supervisors, and said she wasn't certain who made the decision of what to pay or not on pay day.

"It's not flattering, but it's the truth," County Administrator Scott Cole said.

Although there were record-keeping challenges, employees were not being overcompensated for their work, he assured commissioners.

"It's not a question of people coming in and grabbing more than they worked," Cole said. "The public hasn't been cheated in any way, I don't believe."

Commissioners hope the addition of a weekly exception report, to detail inaccuracies, inconsistencies, or questions about payroll will help clear up Rosenblatt's concerns.

The commissioners' responses to Rosenblatt's concerns are also being collected in a policy document circulated to county departments.

Time sheet inaccuracies were being found by Debra Martin, the deputy treasurer, Rosenblatt said. She said some department heads reported being too busy to go over the time sheets thoroughly.

The only time sheet errors were found in the jail and SO. There were both large and small inconsistencies, the smaller issues (half-hour to hour) were sometimes not caught, while larger inaccuracies were caught by Martin.

Chairman David Duguay said the time sheets should be checked twice for accuracy, once by the department heads and then by the Finance Department before being sent to payroll.

If the exception reports continued to show inaccuracies, the commissioners would need to talk to the department heads about it, Duguay said.

Rosenblatt told commissioners that department heads were currently approving employee vacation for scheduling purposes only, without recording the impact on vacation time.

Duguay also suggested that the record of time-off accrued needed to be centralized within the Finance Department and overseen by Cole.

"I don't think anyone should be recording their own leave accrual," Duguay said.

If some employees were consistently not turning in their time sheets on time, disciplinary procedures already on the books should be pursued against them, and the issue should be recorded on the exception report, Duguay said.

Further issues that spring up should be detailed in the weekly exception reports, and the commissioners or Cole would take action as needed, Duguay said.

The county's goal was to implement an electronic time sheet system that could centralize the process and overcome many of the problems outlined by Rosenblatt, Cole said.