Fore! You just can’t make this stuff up. The State Auditor released an audit report yesterday morning that concluded a Caltrans engineer golfed 55 days instead of working at the office during regular business hours. It turns out that he was working for Caltrans, but two managers did not know if he worked for their department or the other’s. It’s like something out of the movie “Office Space" (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Office_Space).
If you have more than 3,300 employees too many, why shouldn’t they play golf? What else is there to do? As they say, “Your tax dollars at work.” Are you ready for a tax increase to support more of this fun? Or is it time to do a turnaround for Caltrans? I say, "Freeways, not fairways!" KCRA Channel 3, News 10 ABC, The San Francisco Chronicle, CBS News LA and Courthouse News Service provide the news in the five pieces below, respectively.
For a recap of recent reform efforts, see MOORLACH UPDATE — Cost of Engineers — August 26, 2015.
Senator after state audit: Caltrans should cut 3,500 jobs
Caltrans worker says he was paid to play golf instead of work
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KCRA) —A new state audit released Thursday revealed California is wasting millions of tax dollars, including paying a Caltrans workers to play golf on taxpayers’ dime.
The investigation began with state workers who reported wrongdoing to the state auditor, under California’s Whistleblower Protection Act. The audit found more than $4 million in waste at more than half a dozen agencies.
California’s highways are crumbling, and there’s talk of raising gas taxes for road repairs. In the meantime, a Caltrans engineer admitted that instead of working, he was out playing golf as much as possible.
The audit found the engineer was on the links during the workweek 55 times during the course of 19 months for four-and-a-half hours a day — enough time to play 18 holes each outing.
A Caltrans supervisor approved his time sheet every time.
"You’ve got a supervisor who’s not doing his job," said Sen. John Moorlach, R-Orange County. "And you’ve got employees out playing golf. And why not? There’s no work to do."
Moorlach told KCRA 3 that instead of raising taxes, California should be cutting 3,500 redundant positions at Caltrans to save $500 million for road repairs.
Moorlach based his figures on a report released by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office.
"They appear to be arrogant, sloppy and mismanaged," Moorlach said.
In response to the audit, Caltrans spokesman Will Shuck told KCRA 3, "It’s not acceptable. It’s not funny. And it’s not something that we’re going to put up with."
Shuck said the engineer retired with a permanent letter in his file indicating he was under investigation at the time he left state service, and Caltrans was also cited in the audit for losing taxpayers’ money.
Caltrans undercharged wireless communication companies on the space they rented for their cellphone towers near freeways.
KCRA 3 asked Caltrans what the department is doing to remedy the situation.
"We’re getting the money back, " Shuck told KCRA 3. "We’re re-billing them for the money that they weren’t charged."
But the biggest waste of money, according to the audit, took place inside prison walls.
California Correctional Health Care Services, which is not a state agency, paid $3.2 million for electrical work at the prisons, but the money went to a contractor, who did nothing more than process the invoices of the subcontractor.
"We agree with all of the audit recommendations," said Joyce Hayhoe, of California Correctional Health Care Services.
The audit found many of the billings were vague, but the department paid for them anyway.
"We believe that there are some billings that should have provided more specificity," Hayhoe said. "We have taken those recommendations to heart. We have provided training to all of our staff to make sure, in the future, that the billing is clear."
The state auditor’s office received 1,207 calls or inquiries through the Whistleblower Hotline, by mail and on the auditor’s website.
The auditor investigated 2,932 cases between July 2014 and June 2015, culminating in this most recent report.
Report: State worker worked on his swing on taxpayers’ dime
A Caltrans engineer was playing golf instead of working, according to a new report from the California State Auditor. This happened 55 times between August 2012 to March 2014 — for an estimated four and half hours each day.
"It is not acceptable, it is outrageous," Caltrans Deputy Director of External Affairs Will Shuck said. "He retired and he’s frankly lucky that he retired."
Shuck said the employee worked in District 11 in San Diego. He said a fellow employee reported the extracurricular golfing.
According to the report released Thursday, the engineer retired in July 2015 and worked for the district for at least 16 years. A note was made in the employee’s personnel file that he retired during an active investigation.
The report also said a supervisor approved the employee’s time sheets for 19 months without knowing the hours he actually worked. During March of 2014, there was also confusion after the employee was transferred to a different division over who was supervising him for a month.
The report states: "Because neither Supervisor A nor Supervisor B believed that Employee 1 was under his or her respective supervision, neither could verify the accuracy of the weekly time sheets that the engineer submitted for this one‑month period."
"Part of the reason that went missing is that he wasn’t filing a daily, a daily activity report, which now is required in a way that it wasn’t at the time," Shuck said.
State Senator John Moorlach said this instance highlights a need for change.
"We’ve got a department that’s inefficient. We’re paying the fourth highest gas tax in the nation and we have the worst roads in the nation," Moorlach said.
He said a few things could be done.
"Maybe we could have a new department head, maybe we shouldn’t have public employee unions running the place, maybe we should be outsourcing a lot more work so that when you have a cycle that is the down cycle that you don’t have to layoff employees, you terminate contracts with outside contractors," Moorlach said. "There’s a lot that could be done, but we can’t just coddle and hold onto employees that are union members just for the sake of protecting them. They don’t work to serve themselves, they work to serve the taxpayers and so we’ve got to change the mindset."
Caltrans insists they are making sure an incident like this won’t happened again.
"Nobody is more indignant than we are," Shuck said. "This is not ok; it’s not acceptable; we’re not going to put up with it."
The report said the main supervisor involved planned to retire in August 2015 with a similar note in his personnel file as the engineer, stating he retired during an active investigation.
Caltrans said in the report it is implementing mandatory weekly submissions of daily activity reports.
Audit: State worker spends 55 days golfing on taxpayers’ dime
By Melody Gutierrez
An engineer for the California Department of Transportation was busy working on his golf swing when he was supposed to be at work, according to an audit released Thursday detailing bad behavior by state employees and public agencies.
State Auditor Elaine Howle’s annual report found 10 substantiated allegations from whistle-blowers with more than $4.2 million in wasted money, improper payments and misuse of work time by public employees.
The Caltrans engineer was found to have played golf on 55 workdays in a 19 month period while his timecard listed him as working. State auditors faulted the engineer’s supervisor for failing to manage the employee or ensure his time sheets were accurate from August 2012 to March 2014.
The employee said he played golf as much as possible – for an estimated four and a half hours a day — during hours the auditor found he was supposed to be working.
The audit also found a month in May 2014 in which no one could account for how much work the engineer had done, if any, because there was a miscommunication about who was supposed to oversee the employee.
The employee will have plenty of time to hit the links now after Caltrans said he retired in July. The agency said it planned to place a letter in the worker’s personnel file indicating he retired during an active investigation. A similar letter would be placed in the supervisor’s file after that employee retired this month, the agency said.
Caltrans has since tightened its policies on timecards and told auditors that they’ve already noted an improvement.
The auditor also found:
An accounting officer at the Employment Development Department typed and printed more than 700 pages of personal letters to one person alone and sent 30 to 97 personal e-mails on a daily basis, which left her little time to do her job. The employee also used her position to assist friends and family who had pending unemployment and disability claims with the state.
The agency attempted to fire the employee, but she resigned prior to being dismissed.
An office supervisor in the Department of Industrial Relations ran a side business selling copied movies and CDs during work hours for seven years while using his work e-mail and office to market and bill for the material. The supervisor kept a catalog of movies he had for sale in a binder at work for customers to peruse.
The employee also sent and received sexually suggestive e-mails while at work and, for a year and a half, printed fliers, class schedules and gift certificates for a coworker’s fitness studio.
The employee resigned while denying wrongdoing. Under a settlement with the Industrial Relations, the agency agreed not to place a notice in the employee’s personnel file that he had been under investigation. The employee was appointed to another state department as a supervisor in December 2014.
Caltrans was faulted for failing to increase rental rates to fair market value for state land rented by Bay Area wireless companies, resulting in California missing out on nearly $900,000 in rental revenue between 2012 and 2014. Caltrans began to collect some of the lost rent, but was unable this month to show how much has been received so far.
The land is rented to wireless companies so that they can install cellular towers and other equipment on certain state highways, such as Interstate 80.
The two mentions of Caltrans’ mismanagement in the state auditor’s report added fuel to Republicans’ calls for the department to downsize as a cost-cutting measure that would help pay for roadway improvements. A 2014 report from the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office found that Caltrans is overstaffed by 3,500 engineers and that cutting the positions would save $500 million.
Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, said Republicans will continue to fight Democrats’ calls for new taxes to fund road and bridge improvements as long as Caltrans remains bloated and mismanaged.
“I don’t know how this Legislature could dare ask the poor to the rich to pay more gas taxes, more automobile registration fees, it’s unconscionable until we fix this department,” Moorlach said.
The senator added that with Caltrans being overstaffed, “it seems golfing would be a smart thing to do with your time” at work.
Melody Gutierrez is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer.
E-mail: mgutierrez. Twitter: @MelodyGutierrez
Report: Caltrans Engineer Was Paid For Playing Golf On 55 Workdays
An Orange County lawmaker said Thursday he has “no confidence” in Caltrans’ spending practices after a state auditor found the agency approved the time sheets of an engineer who played golf for 55 workdays while on the clock.
The report dated Aug. 2015 (PDF) from the California State Auditor found the unidentified engineer was paid for working the day shift despite playing golf for part of 55 workdays between Aug. 2012 to March 2014.
The engineer was later reassigned, but he was not directly supervised from early May 2014 to early June 2014 due to “a failure in communication between two senior transportation engineers,” according to the report.
While Caltrans district management was unable to determine exactly where the engineer was how much work – “if any” – was actually performed during this period, a district manager directed the senior transportation engineer to approve the time sheets, the report found.
In a statement, State Senator John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) described the report as “another example of desperately needed reform” at Caltrans.
“How can we ask Californians to pay more for road repair without fixing Caltrans?” said Moorlach. “We have no confidence that Caltrans is spending money properly.”
The report comes on the heels of another study conducted by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst Office (LAO) which found Caltrans to be overstaffed by 3,300 employees at an estimated cost to taxpayers of $500 million annually.
A 2012 investigation by CBS2’s David Goldstein found Caltrans employees drinking alcohol while on the job and doing crossword puzzles. Several veteran employees were suspended as a result of the investigation.
Audit Finds California Wasting Millions
By ELIZABETH WARMERDAM
SACRAMENTO (CN) – California’s prison health care operator did not seek competitive bids and wasted $3.2 million of tax money to pay a contractor to shuffle paperwork, the state auditor says.
California Correctional Health Care Services has paid $17 million to upgrade electrical systems in state prisons since 2011, but the work was unlawfully done by a contractor under an existing agreement instead of being put out to bid, the audit states.
The agency "paid the contractor $3.2 million to do nothing more than process invoices of the subcontractor, who performed all of the work," according to State Auditor Elaine Howle’s annual report .
The state also paid for goods and services that were not delivered for nearly a year, violating a prohibition of advance payments. Nor did CCHCS take necessary steps to ensure that the contractor delivered or performed on the agreement, the audit says.
Correctional Health Care did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.
The audit details nine other substantiated allegations from whistleblowers, involving several state departments. In total, the report identified more than $4.2 million in wasted tax money, improper payments and misuse of state time.
It claims that CalTrans allowed an engineer to play golf on 55 days during work hours, on the taxpayers’ dime. The engineer’s supervisor did not manage the now-retired employee or ensure that his time sheets were accurate from August 2012 to March 2014, the audit states.
No one in CalTrans could account for how much work the engineer did in May 2014 because it was unclear who was supposed to be supervising him, the audit found.
CalTrans told the state that it tightened its policy on time sheets in July and has already seen improvements.
State Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, said the results of the audit show that reform is needed at the "troubled agency."
"How can we ask Californians to pay more for road repair without fixing Caltrans? We have no confidence that Caltrans is spending money properly. None. When you’re overstaffed by 3,300 employees, I guess the only thing you can do is play golf," Moorlach said.
The audit also found that the agency did not increase rents to reflect the fair market value of state land rented by telecommunications companies in the San Francisco Bay Area, costing the state nearly $883,000 from July 2012 through September 2014.
It found that an office services supervisor in the Department of Industrial Relations ran a side business on his state computer, selling copied DVDs and duplicated CDs during work hours. The supervisor kept a catalog of movies he had for sale in a binder at work for customers to look through.
The audit found that the same employee sent and received sexually suggestive emails during work hours and used department resources to print materials for a co-worker’s fitness studio.
He resigned after he was questioned, and Industrial Relations agreed not to put anything in his file about the investigation. Two months later, he was appointed as a supervisor in another state department.
An accounting officer at the Employment Development Department typed and printed more than 700 pages of personal letters to one person, sent 30 to 97 personal emails on a daily basis, and used her position to assist friends and family who had pending unemployment and disability claims with the state, the audit found.
The auditor also found that the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the prison system’s medical branch, Correctional Health Care, paid three salaried chief psychologists a total of $96,000 in extra pay and leave credits for being on call or for returning to work after their shifts ended.
Despite being told that these employees were not entitled to extra compensation under the state’s labor agreement, officials continued the overpayments, according to the audit.
The report also found that field division staff at the Department of Water Resources improperly disposed of surplus state property that would cost at least $5,300 to replace, and that the Chula Vista Veterans Home wasted money when it bought a piece of equipment for nearly $50,000 that it has rarely used for five years.
This e-mail has been sent by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th District.
If you no longer wish to subscribe, just let me know by responding with the request to do so.