Baltimore County

Baltimore employee stole $55,000 by forging time sheets, reports says

A Baltimore public works employee bilked the city of $55,000 in wages by altering electronic time sheets over four years, according to a report released Wednesday by the city inspector general.

The employee, who was not named, was fired after an investigation, the report said.

The employee was working as an office supervisor in 2007 when she began fudging compensatory leave time and overtime in the computer payroll system, according to the report from City Inspector General David McClintock.

A spokeswoman said the department was in the process of centralizing the payroll system to avoid future problems. But the spokeswoman, Celeste Amato, said creating the new unit was "a very bureaucratic process," and it was unclear when it would be completed.

Amato said the accused employee had held "a position of trust" and had violated department protocols designed to prevent such deception.

She said the investigation had been turned over to the state's attorney's office to see if it merited criminal charges. A spokesman for Baltimore State's Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein did not return a request for comment.

Amato also said the city solicitor was considering whether to sue the employee to recover the funds.

A review of salary data for the 13 office supervisors employed by Public Works found that six received significantly more take home pay than their allotted salary. Three of the employees received overtime pay in excess of 20 percent of their base pay; one earned an additional 31 percent in overtime.

Amato said that there were a variety of reasons why the employees earned overtime and that managers usually scrutinized overtime requests.

The accused office supervisor, who had access to the payroll system as part of her duties, paid herself for nearly 1,000 hours of overtime and received 400 hours of compensatory time over four years, according to the report. She received nearly 50 percent more pay than her base salary because of overtime in 2010, according to the report.

The employee had used her boss' password for the pay system and in some cases altered old time sheets to increase her hours, according to the report. The supervisor had given the employee her password "in the event that she was unavailable to perform her duties."

Department of Public Works administrators record the hours they work in the online payroll system and are not automatically subject to a check by a supervisor, McClintock wrote. He declined to comment beyond the report.

"No City employee should have the ability to enter and sign off on his/ her own hours/ leave time in [the system] without approval by a separate supervisory level staff," he wrote.

McClintock also recommended that the city Finance Department change the online pay system to prevent employees from entering their hours without the approval of a supervisor.

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