By: Robin Ford Wallace, Reporter
Executive Chairman Ted Rumley confirmed on Monday that he had placed human
resources clerk Jennifer Hodnick, who handles payroll for county employees, on
unpaid leave for two weeks because of issues with the way accrued vacation and
sick pay have been administered in Dade.
soft-pedaled any whiff of wrongdoing. “There was no stealing involved,” he
said. “If it was a matter of anything like that, she would have been fired on
said, Ms. Hodnick had become set in her ways and needed what he called an
can work at a place long enough, you get too comfortable,” said Rumley.
Ms. Hodnick was
hired during the administration of Rumley’s predecessor, Ben Brandon, who
served from 2005-2009. Currently, she writes all payroll checks for county
employees, said Rumley. Since the advent of new HR software, he reported, he no
longer signs the checks manually, though he is able to review them online.
specifically in this case, said the county boss, is accounting for vacation and
sick time. Precisely how much time is due whom is fairly simple to calculate
for hourly employees, but: “Salaried people, it’s hard to go into the system
and say how much vacation you’ve got,” said Rumley.
important from a fiscal point of view because, as it stands, county employees
are allowed to cash in their accumulated vacation and sick time for additional
pay, which Rumley says happens from time to time when, say, an employee needs
money for a medical or other emergency.
he confirmed, employees – including those who, like Ms. Hodnick, work directly
in the county commission office – routinely claim payouts for accrued time at
the end of the year.
auditors have advised Dade to change this, said Rumley. “The auditors recommend
that you take it or you lose it,” he said. “You don’t keep accruing until
you’ve got hundreds of hours.”
Rumley said he
and the other commissioners had taken the auditors’ recommendations into
consideration along with observations they had made independently, and had
decided to suspend Ms. Hodnick after a review of her work.
“It’s her duty
to go by the book,” he said. “This is stuff we felt she should have picked up
that he and one of the auditors met with Ms. Hodnick last week in the company
of Robin Rogers, the county attorney, and of District 3 County Commissioner
Robert Goff, and that following that interview Ms. Hodnick would remain on
unpaid leave for this week and next week.
“It wasn’t anything
serious enough to terminate her,” insisted Rumley in a telephone interview.
But he said Ms.
Hodnick had disagreed with the commission’s findings and recommendations and
needed to be brought into line. “She’s got to agree with this or she’s going to
be gone,” he said.
Rumley said the
reason for the suspension inserted into Ms. Hodnick’s personnel file was
“inaccuracy in wage reports,” and that those “inaccuracies” included reporting
her own sick or vacation time.
He said the
auditors originally found about $4,400 in questionable payouts, but that after
going through the figures together they and his office had brought it down to
presentation to the Dade County Commission at its February meeting, auditors
Jason Martin and Ladell McCullough of the Chattanooga accounting firm Henderson
Hutcherson McCullough told the commissioners they saw no major problems with
the county’s books, though they specified Dade had deficiencies that could only
be addressed with more monitoring.
But in the
“Management Points” section of their review, the accountants spelled out:
“Management has no formal process in place for tracking paid time off for
salaried individuals. Someone in an authoritative role should approve all paid
time off prior to commencement. Another individual should also review the
payroll registers periodically to make certain that approved paid time off is
management point, seemingly more serious, mentions the payroll clerk
specifically: “During our review of salary expenditures we noted several salary
changes for the payroll clerk throughout the fiscal year with no documentation.
All salary adjustments should be approved by Commission or department head, as
designated by the Board of Commissioners. We recommend that someone outside the
payroll process review payroll periodically to ensure that payroll is
accurately disbursed, as approved by the Commission.”
But asked about
that point, Rumley denied it referred to Ms. Hodnick giving herself raises or
bonuses. Rather, he said, in question
were three sheriff’s department employees who were all promoted following the
departure of longtime Chief Deputy Jackie Womack.
took Womack’s job, said Rumley, and two other deputies, Tommy Bradford and Matt
Cole, were subsequently bumped up in the pecking order.
Womack had left
over a year before, but the pay raises associated with the three promotions
weren’t instituted until last August or September, after then-Sheriff Cannon
had lost the Republican primary to current Sheriff Ray Cross.
Rumley said he
didn’t know if the pay raises had been retroactive or if lump sums had been
issued to the three employees as a result.
Rumley said Robert Goff, who worked in HR at UPS before retirement, is already
revising the county employee handbook to address points of this nature.
was cautious about commenting specifically on how the handbook would be
changed, he said the amendments might not be popular with everyone. “There’s a
lot of things that we’re going to adjust,” he said. “We’re going to ruffle a
lot of feathers.”
He said his
office had already instituted a fingerprint time clock system to make sure no
one could clock in on behalf of anyone else, and that salaried employees would
now be treated identically with hourly employees in terms of vacation and sick
played Ms. Hodnick’s suspension with the observation that Dade employees are
routinely corrected without making headlines. “You have to discipline people,”
will report more on this issue as records become available.