NEW ORLEANS -- The tables have been turned on New Orleans’ official watchdog agency, which now finds itself in the awkward position of fighting allegations that it violated civil service rules with its own payroll practices.
The Office of Inspector General was forced to defend itself to the Civil Service Commission Monday after it adjusted an employees’ timesheet so the employee could be paid for time worked beyond normal work hours.
But the employee in question apparently was on leave during those extra hours, which were requested in the form of compensatory time. Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux is strongly defending the practice however, saying it follows an in-house OIG policy developed to compensate employees who work overtime but don’t get paid accordingly.
Civil Service Director Lisa Hudson said the request for the employee, who works under the Independent Police Monitor, raised a red flag when the finance department was asked by the OIG’s attorney in September to change the employees’ timesheets.
“We were only alerted to it when they tried to submit the hours retroactively and we found out the person was not at work at the time,” Hudson said.
In a series of letters and reports, the Civil Service Department ruled that altering timesheets violated civil service rules and asked the office to stop the practice.
In an Oct. 22 letter to Quatrevaux, Hudson wrote, “The Office of Inspector General is to cease all compensatory time practices immediately” until they can be reviewed and approved by the city. Hudson also asked for plan to correct any “past payroll errors.”
Quatrevaux was quick to respond. In an Oct. 26 letter in which he expressed “deep concern” over the allegations, but agreed to suspend the comp time policy until it could be reviewed. But he added, “I am disturbed by the request that I ‘submit a plan to correct past payroll errors.’ ”
“We will not be submitting a plan to ‘correct past payroll errors’ as we do not believe that there are past payroll errors to correct,” Quatrevaux wrote. “I respectfully ask that the Commission instruct the Director to withdraw this request.”
At a hearing on the dispute Monday, both sides reiterated their positions. The OIG pointed out that all timesheet changes were requested in advance from the appropriate city officials, and only made the request because the city payroll system doesn’t accommodate comp time.
The Civil Service Commission did not immediately rule on the case.