A teleworking Baltimore City Department of Public Works engineer was able to secure a second full-time job during the pandemic — and do both simultaneously for months — according to a report released Tuesday by the city’s Office of the Inspector General.
Oversights by the department and a loophole in city policy allowed the practice to continue, according to the report.
The engineer, who has been a city employee since 2009, started teleworking full-time in March 2020, at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In May 2020, the engineer applied for a job at a private company, and was hired later that month.
The company assumed the engineer’s tenure with the city had ended, according to the inspector general’s report. But in 2021, during an employment review, the private company discovered the engineer had never left their job with the city.
The engineer is still a DPW employee, according to Tuesday’s report.
A spokesman for the department declined to answer questions about whether the employee or their supervisor would face any discipline, or whether the employee would be required to quit the second job to remain employed by the city, calling it a personnel issue.
The department’s human resource chief, Tamiko Bryant, wrote in response to the investigation that DPW would “ensure that the supervisor receives additional training related to progressive discipline.”
Tuesday’s report outlined a series of reasons the engineer’s double-dipping may have slipped through the cracks.
For one thing, the engineer hadn’t signed a telework agreement with the department outlining expectations. For another, the city’s policy on secondary employment does not specifically state that teleworking employees cannot work another job during the hours they are assigned to work for the city.
The policy does specify that employees must “adhere to the approved telework schedule and work from an approved worksite” and “be available by telephone and/or e-mail during scheduled work hours, with the exception of breaks.”
The department is, however, reviewing its policy, said spokesman Darryl Strange.
“DHR is reviewing the telework policy as hybrid working schedules are becoming more pronounced universally as employers continue to develop COVID-19 recovery plans,” Strange wrote.
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The report also notes that the employee in question was not required to submit a financial disclosure form, unlike other positions in the department.
“It’s possible if the Engineer had filed for 2020, their employment with the Company may have been disclosed to the City earlier,” read Tuesday’s report. “Alternately, if the Engineer had been required to file but nonetheless failed to disclose the secondary employment, there may have been grounds for an ethics investigation.”
In May 2021, the public works department “took steps to ensure on-going compliance” with city policy on telework agreements, which requires they be reviewed annually.
“Due to limited staffing over the past few months, there was a delay in tracking telework agreements received by DPW HR,” Bryant wrote in the department’s response to the inspector general’s office.
The response, dated Aug. 10, states the department planned to issue violation notices to divisions without the proper teleworking agreements on file “in the coming weeks.” No such violations have been issued, Bentley said in an email.
Training on telework agreements was also made available to employees when the agreements were distributed for renewal earlier this year, department spokesman James Bentley said in an email.
The agency also plans to release guidance for its employees “reemphasizing the general rules of engagement related to telework” and secondary employment, Bryant wrote.