Audit says moonlighting state managers shouldn't have had second jobs

Published: Saturday, May. 18, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1A
Last Modified: Sunday, May. 19, 2013 - 11:43 am

California state government violated civil service rules by giving hundreds of salaried managers part-time jobs that paid them an hourly wage, according to an audit released Friday.

The audit concluded that departments overpaid some for their hourly work, underpaid others, and used a poorly worded policy as an excuse to circumvent the notion that managers receive a fixed wage to do whatever is required to get the job done.

The report, prompted by a series of stories on the practice by The Bee, found that 504 salaried managers and supervisors held secondary hourly wage jobs last year.

About 85 percent of those dual appointments were inappropriate, state investigators said. Nearly all of the jobs were in the state's prison and hospital systems, its pension fund and its social services department.

Departments offered various reasons to auditors for using managers to do lower-level work for hourly wages. They said they were working to meet crushing workloads, flexibly cover vacancies or leverage managers' knowledge and skills for less than it would cost to hire new employees or consultants.

The California Department of Human Resources' audit brushed aside those arguments, saying salaried administrators have to work as much as the job demands for a fixed wage.

Officials in departments named in the audit declined interview requests because the Brown administration had ordered them to refer all questions to human resources spokeswoman Pat McConahay.

"This is our investigation," McConahay said when asked why the administration forbade departments to speak for themselves. "Their responses are detailed in the reports, and the reports speak for themselves."

The Human Resources Department dedicated 10 staff members to research and write their reports over the course of three months. Still, their findings lacked some basic information, such as how much the departments spent overall on managerial additional appointments last year.

McConahay said the figure wasn't readily available Friday afternoon.

While auditors concluded most of those employees shouldn't have received an additional job, investigators found that some were shortchanged due to bookkeeping errors. They said the state now must pay about $33,000 in back wages to employees – the audit doesn't detail how many – who worked jobs they never should have received.

An unspecified number of employees who received more money than they were entitled to will have to reimburse the state for a total of $16,000 in overpayments.

Separately, investigators for the State Personnel Board found that departments violated several rules aimed at making state job appointments fair and open, including advertising the part-time positions, taking applications and competitively interviewing candidates.

The Brown administration recently prohibited managers from taking second positions within their same departments. Human Resources has given the departments it audited 60 days to adhere to policy and report back with a "corrective action plan."

Future audits will check to make sure that the policy hasn't crept back into state service. More additional appointment audits loom for non-management employees with more than one state job, McConahay said.

Among investigators' other findings:

• The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which had 160 managers in a second hourly position, failed to provide sufficient pay verification documents for 39 of them.

• The Department of Social Services said it gave 101 managers additional appointments because the jobs are federally funded and front-line workers faced a 50,000-claim backlog created by a state hiring freeze and vacancies. Auditors rejected that rationale.

• Investigators still haven't finished reviewing the 173 appointments at the Department of State Hospitals, which "has been unable to provide CalHR with the required documentation to substantiate the employees' pay," according to the audit.

Assemblyman Jeff Gorell said the audits don't go far enough to lay out a "game plan" for stamping out what he calls an "unethical practice" in state government.

The Camarillo Republican introduced a bill in February that would virtually ban state workers holding two jobs in the same department.

"Making a few edits to a state policy manual or putting out a nice little review isn't enough. We're talking about a government culture," Gorell said.

Call The Bee's Jon Ortiz, (916) 321-1043. Follow him on Twitter @thestateworker and read his blog, The State Worker.

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