Wednesday May 26 2010
City investigates manager gambling during work hours
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
Former employees call for oversight; Rocklin says employee did nothing wrong
The city of Rocklin launched an internal investigation last month after a citizen and former Rocklin city employee inquired about a management employee she saw at a casino during normal working hours and questioning whether the manager was there on the city’s time. Former employee and Rocklin citizen Diana Mattix wrote a letter to the city council and confronted them publically about the issue at the April 28 council meeting. Mattix said she witnessed, on two occasions, a former colleague and Rocklin Fleet Division Manager Kevin Erlandson gambling at the slots at Thunder Valley Casino in the middle of the afternoon. “Knowing that the city is in financial crisis, I was stunned to see him at the casino during business hours,” wrote Mattix in a letter to council. She then took his picture at the slot machine with her cell phone camera. “Feeling uncomfortable, I quickly left and called his office,” Mattix said. “I asked if he was on vacation and was initially told just that he wasn’t in the office.” City Manager Carlos Urrutia conducted an investigation to find out if anything improper was done. “The answer is no,” Urrutia wrote in the report. “We checked the employee’s time card and on each of the two occasions, the employee recorded vacation time.” Erlandson told The Placer Herald he was on vacation while at the casino and worked in the office that morning. “I want to set the record straight,” Erlandson said. “Any time I am away from the office on personal business, my time card is duly noted as either vacation, sick time or holiday time.” Erlandson said he is upset by the public allegation. “I am actually very upset that she’s invading my privacy on my own personal time and that she would make a comment that would potentially compromise my integrity,” Erlandson said. Mattix questions whether the vacation was approved ahead of time or after the fact. Erlandson’s direct supervisor, Assistant City Manager Mark Reimer, refused to answer the question publicly. “This is personnel matter and I am not going to comment,” Reimer said. The Placer Herald filed a California Open Records Act request to obtain e-mails at the center of the investigation. None of the e-mails released by the city addressed how the vacation was approved. Mattix is a 22-year veteran of the city who said she recently accepted a two-year service credit from CalPERS to retire early. Mattix said even though Erlandson was cleared of wrongdoing, the city’s unusual employment practices could allow a manager to go to the casino legitimately. In the same complaint, Mattix questioned the city’s time-reporting policy for managers, which allows them to set their own schedule, suggesting that it created the potential for abuse and that it represented a misuse of public funds. “I am protesting a policy that gives full-time staff permission to work part-time and collect a full-time salary,” Mattix said. The city released the policy in question. On the first page it states: “Charges to the accrued vacation, sick leave or management leave benefits should not be recorded for less than four hours. For example, medical appointments that take two hours do not need to be recorded as sick leave. If a manager works for five hours in a day and leaves for the remainder of the day, the time not worked should not be recorded as vacation or management leave.” Mattix said the decades-old policy should have been eliminated. “In other words, they don’t draw from any of their leaves unless it’s a minimum of four hours,” Mattix said. “The policy gives management the autonomy not to work.” Rocklin has cut 22 percent of its workforce, many non-exempt employees, in an effort to cut the city’s yearly revenue shortfall. The city is currently in talks with the employee union groups to continue furloughs and salary concessions before another round of layoffs are announced in July. Urrutia said Mattix is the first employee to complain about the policy. Fleet Mechanic Greg Beauchamp, who was laid off by the city last December, said there is a reason employees don’t complain. “They’re not going to say anything in this job climate,” Beauchamp said. “They are just going to do the work.” Mattix said when she worked for the city, she reported retaliation to management. “The support staff feels like they have to cover up, that’s because there is retaliation if there is any question or problem,” Mattix said. “Employees are even more afraid because they’re afraid they are going to lose their jobs.” Beauchamp defended Erlandson but said he has a problem with the policy. Delays in service for citizens and the heavy workload for line staff are the consequences of the policy, he said. “If the manager has 10 projects to get done and chooses to work four hours, he or she could then delegate that work to subordinates,” Beauchamp said. “I believe the ability for them to have four hours of work and call that a completed work day is unfair. It has the potential for someone to abuse that.” Current non-exempt city employees refused to comment on the policy but Beauchamp’s boss, Erlandson, said managers are doing their job. “We don’t get paid overtime,” Erlandson said. “There are many, many days that we spend working late into the evening hours. We work on budget, reports and we don’t get compensated for that.” The city of Rocklin has 37 positions that are eligible including the city clerk, city attorney, CFO, department directors, senior analysts and police department command staff. Urrutia said the city contacted 18 other agencies to compare the policy and found, “there is no consistency in how time is being reported.” The list includes Sacramento city and county, Placer County, Elk Grove, Folsom, Citrus Heights, Auburn, Lincoln and Roseville. Four agencies make managers report on an hour for hour basis. Some managers are expected to report all hours worked each pay period, even those over 40 hours in a week though no overtime is paid. Mayor Scott Yuill said he reviewed the findings from the investigation and concluded the city has no interest in changing the policy. “I see no evidence of abuse brought on because of the current policy,” Yuill said. “A flexible schedule must be available for exempt employees.” Yuill said employee practices are not for the council to decide and any change would need to be spearheaded from the next city manager expected to be hired in December. “I believe it’s not council’s role to micromanage personnel matters in most cases,” Yuill said. Mattix said apathy on the part of the city council may be the real problem. “I have a lack of confidence in our city administration and I feel the council has delegated too many responsibilities to the city manager,” Mattix said.