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OPINION: Ongoing Problems 

While the head of Richmond’s Public Works Department was arranging jobs for the chief administrative officer’s family, one employee racked up almost 2,000 hours of overtime.

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In the City of Richmond, the Human Resources Department is responsible for, among other things, advertising and filling vacant jobs within the city government.

On Oct. 9, 2018, the city’s director of human resources, Korita Jones, resigned to accept another job.

A few months later, between Jan. 1 and March 31, five relatives of the since-fired chief administrative officer, Selena Cuffee-Glenn, were hired with at least three of them directly arranged for by the city’s director of the Public Works Department, Bobby Vincent Jr.

While he was orchestrating this hiring spree, one department employee claimed and was paid for nearly 2,000 hours of overtime. For reference, a full-time employee working 40 hours per week accrues 2,080 hours over the course of a year.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request, the Public Works Department provided cumulative overtime hours and pay for fiscal year 2019 through the pay period of June 14. The city’s fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30. Even though this incomplete information already had been provided, a subsequent request for all of the department’s fiscal year overtime data was denied with the city claiming an exemption from the act for personnel information.

Even though only partial year information was provided, in total more than 60,000 hours of overtime were accumulated by the department’s employees up to that point, costing taxpayers $1.6 million. Four employees accumulated more than 750 hours of overtime, three more accumulated over 1,000 hours, and one employee claimed and was approved for 1,954.75 hours of overtime through June 14.

The 1, 954.75 hours plus the standard 40 hours a week means this employee would have had to average 79.1 hours a week during the 50 weeks included in the records. The overtime was worth $42,232.79 to this one employee.

A search of court records found that a person with the same name and birth date as the employee with the 1,954.75 hours of overtime was arrested in 2008 for stealing $73,000 worth of fuel while working for the Richmond Public Schools. However, the case was ultimately dropped by the Richmond commonwealth’s attorney before it reached trial.

In January, auditors critiqued the city’s Public Utilities Department for paying excessive amounts of overtime, including one employee receiving 1,889 hours of overtime pay during fiscal year 2017. Auditors found that there were many instances where overtime hours were lacking properly authorized documentation. Payments were made anyway. The Public Works Department’s high overtime payments were also noted in the auditor’s report.

The auditors made several suggestions to help remedy the overtime issues, including placing a cap on the amount of overtime one employee can work.

When contacted, Vincent and the Public Works Department chose not to answer any questions or provide comment regarding these findings, citing an ongoing investigation into overtime practices. No timetable was available for when the investigation will be concluded.

This discovery portrays a seemingly never-ending pattern here in Richmond.

Problems are found. Investigations happen. People are moved around as a result, but those same people keep working for our government. Not surprisingly, the problems continue to exist.

It seems as though they don’t really care and only take action when caught. Imagine what could be found if someone with a trained eye had full access to City Hall practices.

The fact that they are looking into the overtime issue is good, but Richmond always has investigations.

The auditors already pointed out several issues with overtime and issued suggestions on how to fix them, but here we are, still investigating. At some point, Richmond must not only investigate, but also implement reform if it ever wants anything to change.

Justin Griffin is a small business attorney who lives and has his law practice in Richmond. He earned his law degree from the University of Richmond and has an accounting degree with an economics minor from the University of Tennessee. He operates the website NoColiseum.com and was recently named a member of Style’s 2019 Top 40 under 40 Class.

Opinions expressed on the Back Page are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Style Weekly.

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