In a report from Baltimore’s inspector general this week, the City’s IT department was flagged for potential waste over a procedure that allowed employees who were leaving the department involuntarily to collect pay for unused vacation and sick time.
City Inspector General Isabel Mercedes Cumming found an estimated $261,998 was wasted in her investigation of eight separation agreements from Baltimore City Office of Information and Technology (BCIT) between May 2019 and February 2021. These separation agreements, where employees were allowed to resign instead of being terminated, allowed former employees to stay on payroll. Two former employees were still on payroll at the time of the investigation.
These arrangements were allowed under city rules, and BCIT used “discretion” in approving the payments.
“The city does not have a policy governing the usage of separation agreements, or that otherwise governs the ability of separated employees to remain on payroll to accrue exhausted leave,” according to the OIG report. Every separation agreement went through a chain of approval and reviews that included the city’s law department and Director of Human Resources, but the lack of clear policy “resulted in a perception that city funds are used to pay separated employees in an inequitable and wasteful manner,” the resport states.
BCIT was investigated because of a complaint made by a government employee. It’s not clear if this loophole is present in all departments. The report notes that “the OIG did not inquire about nor review the use of separation agreements by any other City agency.”
In the formal response to the report from the administration, City Solicitor James Shea said he forwarded the OIG letter and report to the the director of the department of human resources to consider “what, if any, revisions or supplementation would be appropriate.”
Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation.-30-