Temp workers, fire department concerns raised in Carson City audit
An audit of Carson City’s department-wide use of temporary workers and the Fire Department’s use of overtime found several issues and is recommending the city implement new policies.
Dan Carter, partner, Eide Bailly, the city’s internal auditor, presented the findings of the two audits to the Audit Committee on Thursday.
The city spends roughly $1.5 million annually on temporary workers hired through one of four temporary staffing agencies who mostly fill in for employees on leave or work seasonally or on short-term projects. The audit covered two fiscal years ending June 30, 2018, and found 77 temporary employees.
The auditor said four of those temp workers had completed two or more assignments over a five-year period and one of them had completed six. Among those individuals, the average down time between work for the city was 65 days and the average total number of weeks was 111.
One of the audit’s main concerns was the city keeping individuals on as temporary staff for too long, risking violations of federal and state law, and recommended a legal review of the city’s practices.
Another issue was the use of former city employees as temp workers. Most of the former employees were hired at rates similar to their previous pay, but the audit found one employee who was hired as a temporary worker on a part-time basis at $35 more per hour than his former salary, costing the city an additional $74,000 over a four-year period.
“That went on for four years and that disturbs me,” said Michael Bertand, vice chair of the committee.
Sherri Russell, chief financial officer, said the former employee was hired for a specific project for which he had expertise and cost less than hiring a consultant to do the work. The project is the multiyear construction project to rehab the Water Resource Recovery Facility.
“Letting someone get that much institutional knowledge without training someone else is a problem,” said Stephen Ferguson, committee chair.
The auditor recommended a cost-benefit analysis be performed when former executive-level employees are hired essentially as consultants to be sure an independent contractor wouldn’t be more cost effective.
Other recommendations included using a single timesheet form for all temp workers and instituting a citywide policy that covers when and how to utilize temporary staff.
The auditor had two recommendations for the Fire Department, one of which is already underway and another the city is looking into.
The department spent $1,310,707 on overtime in fiscal year 2017 and $1,409,287 in 2018. Of that, $469,101 in 2017 and $405,874 in 2018 was incurred fighting fires elsewhere as part of mutual aid agreements and was reimbursed to the city by the other jurisdictions.
The auditor recommended the city do a cost-benefit analysis of hiring six new fire personnel. The cost of new staff is less than the total overtime, but that doesn’t take into account the unavoidable overtime that would still be incurred.
The 2020 budget includes money to do a fire department master plan, which will look at that and other needs, said Sean Slamon, fire chief.
The department is already working on the other recommendation to add to time cards different categories of overtime, such as training or filling in for others on vacation, so it can better track why the overtime is being incurred.
The department budgets $772,646 annually for overtime, which has remained the same over the last three years while firefighter salaries have increased, so one recommendation was to better estimate the budget.