legal scaleAs one of my all-time favorite broadcasters (Paul Harvey) use to say: “And now for the rest of the story”.
We have had a lot of people here in Gallatin County and outside the county asking what is going on with the federal audit. I finally told someone that I would look into it and make some calls to find out what was happening. Based on what we have been able to find out there is a federal investigation going on over wages. But not what we have read about here lately over $8.00 an hour, (that did not take effect until August 1st, 2015, by then investigation had already started) which exceed federal minimum wages and also one disgruntled county employee. I am going to back everything up for you, so you can understand what is going on and what we have found that started this investigation.
From what we have been able to find out the first complaint was filed by a county dispatch employee to the state. In order to have the state investigate you must put your name to the complaint or they cannot proceed with it. In fear of retaliation from the county the employee would not agree to put his/her name on it. After several other employees filed complaints with the state they decided to investigate it. After two to three months of contacting the state and being told they were still looking into it, one of the parties involved contacted the federal investigators’. At this point the federal investigators’ took a look at some things presented to them and stepped in and took over the investigation.
What they were looking at was several things; the first part of the investigation involves stipend pay of $3.00 to $4.50 an hour that was being paid to part time / volunteer county workers. Because of certain actions the county was doing with these workers it made them full time employees of the county. This means the county had to pay a federal minimum wage of 7.25 an hour for 40 hours and time and a half for anything over those 40 hours. Plus all the extras that go into employing someone, workman’s comp, retirement system and etc. So I am going to give you an example of how this would work:
If employee “A” was on 3.00 an hour stipend pay at 72 hours a week he would receive $216.00 if he had no runs. If the employee had a run then his pay would go up to 8.00 an hour or higher depending on qualifications. Do other counties do this, yes, but in order to meet federal minimum wage requirements; from what we have been able to find out they cut a check for the difference in one lump sum and some call it hazardous duty pay. When they do this it makes up for the difference in federal minimum wage for what the employee was supposed to receive. So I am going to show you what it would look like at the end of the month:
72hrs (4) = 288hrs (3) = $864.00 this would be their stipend pay (assuming no runs)
In order to meet federal minimum wages laws this is how much they would still be owed:
160 hrs. (4.25) = $680.00
128 hrs. (7.875) = $1008.00 in overtime hours
So in order for the county to meet federal minimum wage requirements they would have had to cut employee “A” a check for $1688.00. But remember this is only if the employee had no runs.
Once federal investigators’ came in to look at the records they reviewed all county employees’ records that were in question. They found some other discrepancies in other areas, that once this part is finished, they are going to come back in and take a look at. When I spoke with the investigator he gave me as much information as he could. He was not allowed to release the findings, but said he would as soon as federal prosecutors’ told him he could. There are several steps taken by investigators’;
The first step of the investigation is the review of pay records, when this is done he/she will release their findings to the County, then they will set up a conference call with federal attorneys and the county to discuss their findings. At that point and time they will tell the county how much they believe they owe and why. If the county does not agree then we proceed to step 2.
In step 2 of the process the county has approximately 28 day to respond to step one and the recommendations or they can choose to fight it. If they concur to what the federal findings are, the process ends here and a payment settlement can be set up to pay the employees what is owed or they can be paid in one lump sum. Plus any investigation fees that is due the federal government, (remember the federal government always gets there money).
If an agreement is not reached in step 2, thus step 3 begins’, it is turned completely over to the federal prosecution (now remember the county has to pay for these attorneys’), at this point from what I have been told, criminal charges can be brought against the county officials, they can be fined “X” amount a day that they are not in compliance and the legal process begins. The term that was put to me is one I have heard many times thought my life “Ignorance of the law is no excuse”. So to sum up step 3 in one sentence: The County will be paying to prosecute itself, plus pay any fines they occurred during this process.
So, is it just one disgruntled worker that is involved in this, NO. It has the potential of 4 past county employees and 6 plus county employees that are still employed. Here is an example of how much it could cost the county based on a 40 hour week with 32 hours of overtime.
4.25 (10) 42.50 (40) $1700.00
1700.00 (4) = $6800.00
6800.00 (12) = $81,600.00
81,600.00 (2) = $163,200.00
7.25 (32) = 232 (10) = $2320.00
2320.00 (4) = $9280.00
9280.00 (12) = $111,360.00
111,360.00 (2) = $222,720.00
$222,720.00 + $163,200.00 =
$385,920.00 plus interest, fines, attorney’s fees on both sides (Remember they are paying to prosecute themselves if it goes that far).
As soon as they are allowed to release the findings they will be releasing them to channel 9, Fox 19, and and anyone else who request them. We will be keeping everyone up to date on this story as we find more out. Here is also something to remember, it does not matter if other counties are doing it this way, as long as no one who works for them files a complaint, they cannot be investigated. It would be like saying “Officer I know I was drinking and driving and you caught me, but nothing should happen because other people are on the road drunk also tonight”
We here at hope everyone has a MERRY CHRISTMAS and be safe over New Year’s weekend.