It started with a phone call from a concerned mother.
It ended with the Collier County finding payroll theft and forgery; employees being underpaid for hours worked; and a lack of managerial oversight at the Immokalee Sports Complex and the Immokalee Community Center.
It also may lead to criminal charges.
Those were the findings of Collier County Clerk Dwight Brock’s audit of the Immokalee parks payroll, which were released to commissioners Tuesday. In all, the audit found nearly $25,000 in underpayments and overpayments to employees.
The audit was triggered after the mother of an employee contacted the county in April 2012 about a discrepency with the employee’s W-2. The mother asserted that her daughter, who had been away at college for most of the year, could not have worked the hours to be paid as much as the tax document said she had been.
An investigation found that a location supervisor was falsifying time cards, which were being entered into the system by a timekeeper to issue a payroll check. The parks employee who was supposed to review the time failed to do so and the time was approved, which allowed the timekeeper to pick up the printed checks. The checks were then cashed at local Immokalee businesses by the timekeeper or the location supervisor, according to the investigation. The exact amount taken was not immediately clear.
“It’s not an unserious matter,” Brock said. “The more we looked at it, we saw it was more pervasive than the issue.”
Brock’s audit looked at employees who received manual checks from the Immokalee Sports Complex and the Immokalee Community Center from Aug. 29, 2009, to March 23, 2012. The audit found, among other things, inconsistent employee signatures on timecards; that the time entry process lacked managerial oversight, including employees reporting duplicated hours, timecards containing conflicting information or calculation errors that were not caught; that parks staff did not follow established practices for the segregation of duties for the time entry process; and that timecards were altered and those changes were not approved by employees.
The audit ultimately found that, for the 25 employees at both locations, the county underpaid employees $13,746.97, and overpaid employees $10,749.08.
Barry Williams, director of the county’s Parks and Recreation Department, said his department has taken steps to ensure the problems will not happen again. He also told commissioners that as soon as the parks department became aware of the problem, they reported it to authorities.
Assistant State Attorney James Molenaar, who works with the Collier County Economic Crimes Unit, told commissioners a criminal investigation into the issue is ongoing.
Second Amendment receives support
Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution supporting the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, even though they admitted it will do little.
The resolution affirms commissioners “will not assist, support or condone any unconstitutional infringement of that right; and we call on the governor and state Legislature to lawfully use all of its powers to resist or overturn any federal gun control measure that violates the right of the people of the state and Collier County to keep and bear arms.”
The Marco Island City Council narrowly approved the resolution last week.
Greenway receives funding
The Gordon River Greenway Park is coming to fruition.
Commissioners approved awarding $8.9 million for the project to Manhattan Construction, Inc. for construction of the second phase of the project, which will start at Golden Gate Parkway and go south past the Conservancy of Southwest Florida and the Naples Zoo.
The park will be a 124-acre recreational facility composed primarily of a nature preserve with restrooms, shade structures, a boardwalk, a pathway, kayak launch, bridges, a maintenance building and parking.
The funding for this portion of the project comes from several partners, including the Florida Communities Trust, the Naples Zoo and Conservation Collier.