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ALLISON — A state audit has found more than $57,000 in improper payments to employees of the Butler County Sheriff’s Office.

A report released Thursday by Iowa State Auditor Rob Sand details excess overtime and holiday pay for 26 employees from December 2014 through October 2018.

Auditors also turned up several instances where contributions to the Iowa Public Employees’ Retirement System were made to reserve officers in violation of state law.

Butler County Sheriff Jason Johnson issued a response stating the payroll errors were not intentional but occurred due to a misunderstanding of several policies.

The state launched the investigation after being contacted in 2018 “regarding a concern an employee within the Sheriff’s Office was improperly paid overtime and improperly received IPERS benefits.”

Auditors said the county was paying individuals overtime if they worked more than eight hours in a single day rather than following the county and Fair Labor Standards Act policy that calculated overtime for law enforcement personnel working more than 171 hours in 28 days.

The special audit also found double-time pay for holidays was improperly awarded in some cases; daily overtime was paid to part-time employees working less than 40 hours in a week; and several other discrepancies.

Some $57,183 in improper disbursements were made during the audit period. But auditors noted the amount could be higher because time sheets were not available for some employees during the audit period, while time sheets were not readily available prior to 2014.

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Johnson, who has been sheriff since 2006, said the overtime issue had never been raised in regular state audits.

“We believed the payments were being made correctly,” Johnson said. “Once we were informed of the needed changes, they were made. As the manager of the state’s audit stated to us, ‘It appears it was a misconception of the calculation of overtime and not an intentional error being made.’”

Johnson said his department has already adopted the 171-hour rule and trained staff to avoid future payroll issues.

“The next steps regarding the funds at issue from the miscalculation will need to be decided by the Board of Supervisors once all the county’s available options have been determined,” he said.

A second issue involved the county incorrectly calculating payments to IPERS for employees who split their time between working as jailers and dispatchers and also working as reserve officers. The time spent working as a reserve officer was also included in the IPERS payments when that isn’t allowed by state law.

Johnson said the IPERS issue was corrected immediately after being brought to the county’s attention.

“The pay schedule has not been questioned through two county auditors, three (human resources) staff and multiple budgeting processes, including these annual state audits,” he added. “Until noted in this report, we were not aware payroll is not included in our yearly audits.

“I have requested the State Auditor’s Office to follow up this report with payroll examination to assist us in avoiding any further under/overpay issues,” he added.

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