Capitol Alert

Bad actions in state workforce cost taxpayers thousands of dollars

A look inside Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino, a facility for seriously mentally ill people who committed crimes.
A look inside Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino, a facility for seriously mentally ill people who committed crimes. File/The Sacramento Bee

Psychiatrists at a state hospital routinely played hooky. A supervising nurse at a correctional facility forged military papers. A development center squandered thousands of dollars on state worker leave time.

These are among the findings of a new government compilation of employee misdeeds, released Thursday by the California State Auditor.

While the latest report on bad actions, and unscrupulous actors, lacks the kind of tantalizing details that have raised eyebrows in prior years, it highlights a persistent problem: the state losing track of its massive workforce.

The cases mentioned totaled roughly $345,000 in misappropriated taxpayer dollars. Here are some of the bad acts singled out in the report:

▪ Patton State Hospital paid $296,800 to four psychiatrists who regularly worked 11 to 18 fewer hours than their requisite 40-hour workweek. All told, the psychiatrists worked 2,254 fewer hours than required to average the 40-hour week. Two of the psychiatrists worked elsewhere, essentially moonlighting during their scheduled state work time. When confronted about the discrepancies, the workers were dishonest about their hours and the outside work. Auditors also found that psychiatrists and other employees at Patton may have shortchanged their employer. Supervisors and executives did not resolve the situation despite being generally aware.

▪ A supervising nurse working at California Correctional Health Care Services, who is a U.S. military reservist, forged several documents and duped his employers about the dates of his part-time military duties. Despite what he wrote in the documents, the nurse did not carry out his reservist duties on 10 of the 34 days listed. He further incorrectly claimed to have been on active duty for another four days. His unmerited pay totaled about $6,000.

▪ An employee of a state hospital, another psychiatrist, violated financial disclosure requirements by failing to list financial interests in a pharmaceutical company. The income that should have been listed totaled $29,800 received while he served as acting medical director from May 2013 to September 2014. Auditors also blamed the filing officials at the facility for not ensuring the psychiatrist turned them in.

▪ The Department of Water Resources wrongly reimbursed three workers more than $4,500 above the allowed amount for training. Similar circumstances also led officials there to dubiously categorize training for seven additional employees. The department could have saved nearly $51,000 if it followed the rules and kept course reimbursement limits at $2,000 a year for each full-time worker.

▪ The Porterville Development Center spent $25,600 in wasted state funds when it charged just eight hours of leave time to some employees who skipped out on nine- and 10-hour workdays. A review of the time sheets for 12 workers revealed that Porterville didn’t charge 566 hours of leave. The extra hours remain available for leave or conversion to cash payments when they leave state employment – because the facility did not deduct the leave.

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago