City Beat

Union asks Sacramento auditor to examine city benefits practices

Construction crews work on the Sacramento Kings downtown arena in February. The city auditor has proposed an examination of whether the Sacramento Kings are meeting standards in the hiring of local workers at the downtown site. The City Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether to approve that and other audits. “There’s a pretty long laundry list of things people would like us to look into, but we don’t necessarily have the resources to do,” Auditor Jorge Oseguera said.
Construction crews work on the Sacramento Kings downtown arena in February. The city auditor has proposed an examination of whether the Sacramento Kings are meeting standards in the hiring of local workers at the downtown site. The City Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether to approve that and other audits. “There’s a pretty long laundry list of things people would like us to look into, but we don’t necessarily have the resources to do,” Auditor Jorge Oseguera said. pkitagaki@sacbee.com

Sacramento City Hall’s largest labor union has asked the city auditor to investigate an allegation that nearly 100 employees were not paid medical or retirement benefits despite working enough hours to qualify for those perks.

City Auditor Jorge Oseguera said Thursday morning that he would meet with representatives of the Operating Engineers union, Local 39, and city Parks and Recreation officials to “assess whether this is something we need to move forward with as a high-priority item” or at a later date.

The labor audit would join a growing list of high-profile examinations planned by the auditor. The parks department has also proposed launching examinations of Fire Department overtime, a broad performance assessment of the Police Department and an audit of whether the Sacramento Kings are meeting standards in the hiring of local workers at the downtown arena site. The City Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether to approve those plans.

“There’s a pretty long laundry list of things people would like us to look into, but we don’t necessarily have the resources to do,” Oseguera said.

The employee benefit issue was raised Monday, when Local 39 filed a grievance against the city charging that 98 city Parks and Recreation employees had worked at least 1,040 hours in a year since 2008 and did not receive proper benefits, a violation of the union’s contract with the city. The grievance also alleged that laid-off employees were replaced by those with less seniority and that some employees were underpaid.

Many employees covered by the grievance work in the 4th “R” and START after-school programs.

The city is considering closing 4th “R” at four campuses and severing ties with START at some schools. City officials said both services are expected to run deficits in the fiscal year beginning July 1 because the city will begin paying benefits for many workers in those programs for the first time.

In a staff report released Thursday, city officials said they planned to work with the Sacramento City Unified School District to find replacement services for the four 4th “R” sites slated for closure.

City officials have declined to comment directly on the Local 39 grievance, saying they consider it pending litigation. However, a city spokeswoman said the city is investigating the claims and takes the allegations seriously.

In a letter to the city auditor, Local 39 Director of Public Employees Steve Crouch said the union thinks “several of the upper management in the Parks and Recreation Department acted irresponsibly and did not always use their funds appropriately.”

Oseguera said the issue is “something of interest to us.”

However, his office is also handling other ongoing audits, including an examination of the city’s 311 call center and an audit of the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency. And its work plan for the 2015-16 fiscal year could stretch resources even more.

The auditor’s office has four full-time employees, including Oseguera, a number that has remained unchanged since 2010. The office’s annual budget has hovered around $550,000 since 2010, but was increased by $100,000 in the current fiscal year to fund contracts for outside firms to conduct audits.

At the same time, audits of a wide range of topics have netted the city total savings of more than $14 million since 2010, according to an auditor department report released last month.

“We save the city a lot more money than we cost,” Oseguera said.

Call The Bee’s Ryan Lillis, (916) 321-1085. Read his City Beat blog at sacbee.com/citybeat.

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