Friday, July 24, 2009

Pa. Legislature Employees Still Getting Paid, But No Timesheets Kept . . .

The following was reported by WTAE Channel 4 on July 24, 2009.

Friday was payday for Pennsylvania's 80,000 employees -- but for the second straight week, workers only got a partial salary payment because of the state's ongoing budget impasse.

Thousands of employees in the state Legislature are still getting full paychecks because the state Legislature has built up a $200 million slush fund -- but Team 4 investigative reporter Jim Parsons has learned there's no record kept of the hours those employees work.

Pennsylvania's Legislature costs taxpayers more than $300 million a year. Most of that money pays the salaries of 3,000 legislature employees. A Team 4 investigation found that those workers fill out no time sheets for their paychecks.

"You have to have a way of documenting who is working, how much time and how you're paying it," Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato said.

Recently, Team 4 submitted a public records request to the state House of Representatives. Chief clerk Roger Nick sent a letter saying the House "does not possess time and attendance records that track an employee's daily record of attendance." Team 4 got the same answer from the clerk of the Senate.

That's not the way it works in Allegheny County. For example, Parsons got the time and attendance records for workers in the county's Department of Administrative Services. It includes the date and number of hours worked for each day of the week.

"It should be consistent across the board, no matter what department you're working in," Onorato said.

Team 4 found plenty of state workers in Pittsburgh from the executive branch who must file time sheets.

"There shouldn't be a disparity," a state employee told Parsons.

"I don't think it's a positive factor. I think everyone should be accountable," another state worker told Parsons.

Onorato -- an accountant and a potential 2010 candidate for governor -- said the state Legislature employees should have to account for their time worked.

"It is efficient, and taxpayers want efficiency right now," he said.

Team 4 requested an interview with Pennsylvania Auditor General Jack Wagner for this report. His office declined, saying Wagner has no authority to audit the Legislature.