Numerous mistakes found in SF police payroll, report shows 

click to enlarge A City Controller's Office report conducted from August 2012 to September 2013 analyzed a variety of pay and payroll processing in the San Francisco Police Department. - ERIC RISBERG/AP FILE PHOTO
  • Eric Risberg/ap file photo
  • A City Controller's Office report conducted from August 2012 to September 2013 analyzed a variety of pay and payroll processing in the San Francisco Police Department.

Poor record-keeping and lax procedures resulted in the Police Department erroneously paying its employees overtime and other special-duty pay, according to a recent report from the City Controller's Office.

"Payroll operations and administration of overtime compensation and various premium pays at the San Francisco Police Department need major improvements," said the report, the findings of which highlight one more area of record-keeping the department needs to improve. The department has for some years had issues with its crime statistics, often reporting one number on its website and another to the FBI.

Conducted from Aug. 18, 2012, through Sept. 27, 2013, the payroll audit looked at a variety of pay and payroll processing. For example, two special pay scales investigated were 10B and bilingual pay, both of which pay more than the normal hourly wage.

Bilingual pay is a fixed amount paid to certified foreign-language speakers, while 10B overtime is paid by non-city organizations or individuals requesting police services, such as for special events. Overtime and 10B hours worked in excess of the basic week are 1½ times the employee's normal wage rate.

Mismanagement of payroll documents and errors in pay abound in the City Controller's Office report, perhaps most surprisingly a sample of 266 timesheets and request cards found that 61 percent were not approved by a supervisor.

The department doesn't keep pay records for The City's required seven years, does not consistently or adequately approve timesheets for premium pay and has no written policy for key payroll duties. What's more, the report revealed that the Police Department is one of only two city agencies that does not use a new PeopleSoft time-keeping software that could eliminate many of these issues.

For example, a sample of 10B overtime paychecks showed that the department "erroneously paid" 20 percent of the 25 employees sampled. Specifically, six people were overpaid $4,118 for 10B and one was underpaid $149.

"One employee incorrectly received 21 hours of 10B overtime pay due to erroneous entries ... resulting in an overpayment of $1,804," noted the report.

Perhaps because of poor record-keeping, the report pondered, one employee was paid for 33 hours of 10B overtime but only worked 12 hours.

In an inquiry on bilingual pay -- which is twice-monthly extra income for those who are proficient in Spanish, Russian or Chinese -- an "employee was incorrectly paid $1,033 of bilingual pay before being certified for the pay." Further, the report said, "Of a sample of 49 employees receiving bilingual pay, the department could not provide bilingual certifications for 27 [55 percent]."

Based on a sample of $178,584 in pay out of a total department payroll of $360 million, the report's four main findings were:

- Department errors caused overpayments, and underpayments, resulting in $4,267 in pay errors.

- The department couldn't provide payroll records for $16,262 in pay.

- Station supervisors don't always properly approve the timesheets.

- The department lacks formal policies for some key aspects of payroll.

The report -- which noted that the Police Department agreed with all the findings and implemented some recommendations -- advised that the department should immediately correct the errors that caused it to over- and underpay employees and that it should comply with city rules about keeping pay records for seven years.

It also noted that the department should create a proper tracking system for bilingual certification and require that supervisors "approve and date all payroll authorizations." Additionally, it said the department needs to start putting into place rules for payroll clerks.

The Police Department's Nov. 19 response letter noted that it "concurs with all seven recommendations, and five recommendations are fully implemented." The two pending recommendations involve bilingual certification.

The report looked at a sample of 49 overtime records, 46 bilingual employee pay records and the entire paychecks of 22 employees, among several others. In all, it analyzed 165,759 pay records, equaling more than $40 million in pay.

Cash for cops: Police Department payroll facts for fiscal year 2012-13

Total employees

3,300

Total in Police Officers Association

2,750

Note: The POA represents many sworn personnel, including officers, sergeants, inspectors, lieutenants and captains

Regular pay

$296,189,129*

Overtime pay

$27,261,100

Other pay

$37,096,103**

Total

$360,546,332

*Includes temporary and permanent salaries (uniformed and miscellaneous employees)

**Includes holiday pay, one-time payments, premium pay

POA-represented employees may receive premium pay for specific job duties or special skills, such as:

-Night-shift differential (hours worked between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.)

-Court appearance

-Stand-by (available when off-duty)

-Bilingual (fixed amount paid twice-monthly to employees certified by human resources as being Spanish-, Russian- or Chinese-proficient)

-Field training and training unit coordinator

-Acting assignment (performing substantial duties for temporary out-of-classification work)

-10B overtime (time and a half for special events and the like, paid for by those requesting the service)

Source: City Controller's Office

About The Author

Jonah Owen Lamb

Jonah Owen Lamb

Bio:
Born and raised on a houseboat in Sausalito, Lamb has written for newspapers in New York City, Utah and the San Joaquin Valley. He was most recently an editor at the San Luis Obispo Tribune for nearly three years. He has written for The S.F. Examiner since 2013 and covers criminal justice and planning.
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