Carson City Fire Department pays twice budgeted amount for overtime

Carson City’s internal auditor provided preliminary findings of an audit of the fire department’s overtime and citywide temporary staffing.

In fiscal year 2018, the fire department paid $1.4 million in overtime, twice the amount budgeted. Some of it was due to historic wildfires in California and about $500,000 was billed and reimbursed after Carson City sent personnel and equipment to assist.

So far, the internal auditor has spoken with fire department supervisors, reviewed policies and procedures, and pulled 20 random transactions for review. Of those 20, one exception was found, a timecard for a 27-hour overtime shift for what should have been a 24-hour shift.

Dan Carter, partner, Eide Bailly, the auditor, speaking to the Audit Committee on Tuesday, said five to 10 people received the bulk of the overtime. Nancy Paulson, city manager, said one reason was the same few individuals traveled to fight fires elsewhere.

Supervisor Lori Bagwell, who’s on the committee, asked if it could be determined in each case why the overtime was taken.

“No, that is one of our recommendations,” said Carter, who recommends adding separate overtime codes for payroll so it shows why the overtime was incurred — for mutual aid, sick leave, training, or other reasons.

“It does look like the city has the funds to fund multiple positions based on overtime alone,” said Carter.

New hires would trigger a requirement in the department’s collective bargaining agreement with firefighters to give one more person leave daily, which would partially reduce the advantage of additional firefighters.

Sean Slamon, fire chief, said after the meeting three firefighters would offset the additional annual leave slot, and the department could hire up to nine firefighters without triggering the next tier of required leave.

“If we added six new positions, two per shift, we would cover the additional annual leave slot and be able to reduce our overtime costs,” said Slamon.

The auditor found no city policy and procedures for temporary staffing, which is used by all departments. The annual budget for temp workers is about $1.5 million and is done with four temporary staffing agencies through a state contract.

Stephen Ferguson, committee chair, had concerns with the timecard procedure, which doesn’t require the workers to clock out for required breaks.

Ferguson also wanted the audit to look at how long each temporary staffer was employed and other potential issues with the Fair Labor Standards Act, which may have limits on the length of time a person can work as a temporary worker.

Former employees collecting pensions can’t return to work for the city before 90 days, but some have been rehired immediately through temporary staffing contracts. The committee discussed possible policy to prevent rehiring former employees as temporary workers without a formal approval process.

“It is certainly an area we have some work to do,” said Bagwell.

Carter said the auditor will deliver the final report on the audit of both the fire department and temporary staffing at the committee’s next meeting May 7.

The committee also approved a list of nine audits for 2019, including citywide social media, tax exempt property, and accounts payable.


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