Sunday, April 14, 2024

Audit finds Louisiana sheriff investigators earned pay while at off-duty work

by BIZ Magazine

(The Center Square) — The Red River Parish Sheriff’s Office paid detectives for 160 hours that overlapped with their off-duty work as paid private security detail at a local hospital, according to state auditors.

Louisiana Legislative Auditor Mike Waguespack issued an investigative audit report last week that examined allegations employees in the sheriff’s department were working details at the hospital that overlapped with their regular shifts, resulting in tax dollars paid for work they didn’t do.

Auditors visited the sheriff’s office and reviewed the agency’s polices, timesheets and agreement with the hospital, finding five detectives recorded work hours for both the sheriff’s office and hospital without taking leave as required by policy.

“These records show that five detectives’ off-duty detail hours overlapped with 160 hours recorded on their RRPSO time sheets for which they did not record leave from September 2, 2021 to May 19, 2023,” auditors wrote. “RRPSO paid the five detectives a total of $4,821 for these hours.”

The captain of detectives and another detective combined for the majority of the overlapping hours and both told auditors time sheets are not always accurate because detectives were instructed to record their work hours as 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., regardless of hours actually worked.

“These detectives stated that they were allowed to work a flexible schedule and makeup hours before and after regular work hours, including by working from home,” according to the report. “The second detective told us that the overlapping hours were errors by failing to record the leave on her time sheets.”

A review of the timesheets found one detective used more compensatory leave than available and may have been paid for accrued leave after leaving the department. Auditors also found some leave requests were not forwarded to the chief civil deputy and therefore were not correctly recorded.

Other findings point to potential violations of the Code of Governmental Ethics, which allows officers to work off-duty jobs if their public employer has an official policy that includes appropriate charges for the use of public vehicles.

“Since RRPSO’s off-extra duty employment policy does not provide for appropriate charges for the use of public vehicles, it does not meet the conditions in the Code of Governmental Ethics for an exception,” auditors wrote. “As such, the detectives may have violated the Code of Governmental Ethics by receiving wages from the third-party security company for performing private security services.”

The LLA offered more than a half-dozen recommendations, including the creation of a written policy, charges for the use of public assets for private security details, written contracts between the sheriff’s office and businesses requesting security and improvements to leave policies and procedures.

Sheriff Glen Edwards said in a letter to Waguespack on Dec. 1 that the department has reviewed its leave policies and procedures and “the timesheet issue at Investigations has already been addressed and corrected.”

“As for the use of Sheriff’s Office vehicles for off-duty details, it is imperative that the deputies have their vehicles with them because they contain all of their issued equipment (rifle, shotgun, ammunition, WEDs, etc.). If the vehicle is actually in use for the off-duty assignment, the employer is charged an hourly rate for vehicle use.

“We do not currently charge a vehicle use fee if the vehicle is driven to a location and simply parked while the deputy is inside a facility working,” Edwards wrote. “If this needs to be changed to comply with the Code of Governmental Ethics, we will certainly do that.”

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