Evidence of Fire Department Financial Misuse

Salina City Commissioners heard a detailed report Monday evening on the finding of an audit and investigation into the Salina Fire Department.

An outside agency, BKD CPAs & Advisors, has performed forensic accounting services of the agency and prepared a forensic accounting report. The report was unveiled during the report to the commission.

The investigation found misuse of “admin time”, also called by the agency “admin days” or “executive leave”. By using this “compensation time“, time cards were essentially falsified to use vacation days for buy back.

The audit found a pattern of this dating back at least to 2007, and probably before that.

The use of this “compensation time” is not allowed per city policy, but rather was unique to the fire department. It was revealed the misuse of it was having a negative impact on morale at the agency.

The report says there is a pattern of some “Chiefs of Staff, or “CoSs”, all of whom are exempt employees, aggregating time worked beyond the normal eight-hour workday or 24-hour shift, and taking this time off later as what is commonly referred to as “compensation time”. Generally, this time is referred to in the Fire Department’s historic data as “admin time” or “admin days”, and more recently referred to as “executive leave”. The CoS group also appears to have simply used admin time as additional days off that do not appear to correlate with time worked beyond the normal, eight-hour workday.

The City’s policies and procedures do not permit compensation time, admin time or admin days. The analysis found that not all CoSs reported time impermissibly, nor was the volume of admin time usage consistent across all Coss.

A total of 265 shifts were identified as time off not applied to vacation, which is valued at over $198,000. In addition, they identified 24 shifts where it appears to be additional personal time or sick time not reported, valued at over $18,000. The use of admin time did not impact the Coss’ vacation accrual. Therefore, the CoSs had their full allowable vacation time and/or were able to sell up to 50% of unused Vacation in addition to the admin days. In other words, CoSs’ vacation days were not reduced when admin days were taken, and the retention of those vacation days increased the number of days that could be bought back from the City. 

As part of the investigation payroll records were analyzed, thousands of  agency e-mails were analyzed, and multiple employees were interviewed.

The next step now is to take the specifics, and apply it to each specific employee and let the personnel department handle it for any possible discipline.  The supervisor at the department level has authority to level a suspension of up to five days. Any other potential punishment, including demotion or dismissal, can only be decided by the city mangers office with an administrative hearing.

There is the possibility it becomes a criminal case in the future as well.