City audit finds problems with JSO payroll procedures

Accountability questioned; Sheriff's Office says computer system has issues

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A new audit released by the city shows some problems with accountability and bookkeeping for the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office payroll.

The audit looked at how officers and staff at JSO are paid, whether their hours are being tracked correctly and whether overtime pay is being calculated and applied evenly.

The audit found that JSO lacked detailed payroll procedures, including not requiring all employees to attest to time worked.

The city also had inadequate supporting documentation for the creation and maintenance of pay elements, the audit said.

READ: City payroll audit for JSO

And the auditor noted concerns about pay differences for different shifts, which could have an effect on overtime rates.

“We would like to have more checks and balances,” City Council auditor Kirk Sherman said. “(We would like to) have a system that moves more smoothly.”

The auditor and Sheriff's Office said they don't believe any money was misappropriated by the Sheriff's Office, which makes up the largest segment of the city’s salary budget with $186 million.

But they have concerns about accountability for taxpayer dollars.

“I don't necessarily blame this on Mike Williams, because it's probably taken years for it to get to that point. He has inherited some problems,” City Councilman Bill Gulliford said.

Following the audit, the Council Auditor's Office recommended that JSO develop written standard operating procedures for payroll, move away from manual time-keeping, enhance review of payroll batches and require all employees to attest to time worked.

Right now the audit suggests that because of lack of oversight, employees could be working different hours than they claim.

“Ideally you want to have the system stronger where it catches things like that,” Sherman said.

The city also needs to ensure that shift differential pay is applied consistently and in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement requirements, the audit said.

Undersheriff Pat Ivey released a statement Wednesday about the audit's findings, saying that it confirmed what he has said for some time that the employee information computer system JSO uses to track hours has deficiencies. He said the department is weighing the costs of hiring people to manage the deficient system versus switching to a better system.

He said it boils down to whether you fix a Ford Pinto or buy or lease a Ford Focus.

Gulliford said changing the system is something the City Council should look into.

“I go back to the main question: How do we control it?” Gulliford said. “And we really can't.”

The city has seen similar problems with tracking employee hours in other departments, like the Airport Authority, which was the subject of a recent audit as well.

Read Ivey's full statement below: 

I believe the audit to be an extensive and factual one. It also solidified, for me, what we’ve said for quite some time and that is: the EIS system of tracking time and attendance, overtime, and leave has deficiencies, as you saw in our responses.
I do not think these deficiencies have resulted in any economic substance that is greater than the cost of staffing to do the manual work and administrative checking required by a deficient system. But, this is an end of life platform for which enhancements from ITD probably should not be done, as a waste of city resources. We certainly need to look at the cost/benefits of a new system that is designed for a 365/24/7 operation with more than 15 bargaining units, all driving time and attendance.
At its core, it is a system with exceptionally good logic that prevents any claim of overtime from overlapping with scheduled work, so on that dimension I am certain there has not been money leakage. Our task is to find a system (successor platform) that has been designed with (hopefully) this same solid logic, but has the capabilities this one does not, so it won’t require additional manpower to check and verify data points because the system cannot do it. And, we will weigh the costs of switching to such a system at the same or less cost than hiring people to “manage” the deficient one.
That’s where we’ll go from here.”

Sheriff Mike Williams and Mayor Lenny Curry will be holding a news conference at 10:30 a.m. Thursday to discuss police overtime.

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