IG: City engineer teleworked simultaneously for DPW and a private company

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A Public Works Department engineer was paid to perform two jobs for the same hours for more than a year, which he was able to do while working remotely in both cases, the Inspector General revealed today from Baltimore.

An IG report Isabel Mercedes Cumming said the engineer, employed by DPW’s Office of Water and Wastewater, secured full-time employment with a private company in May 2020 after being allowed to telecommute from his home due to the Covid pandemic.

The employee – whose name does not appear in the public synopsis released today – is still employed by DPW, the report says.

Taken by a new employer

Tamiko Bryant, DPW’s chief human resources officer, did not address the employee’s current status, but said DPW plans to require everyone authorized to work remotely “to have a signed telecommuting agreement. in their file.

The agency also plans to “advise agencies and employees on out-of-town secondary employment.”

DPW Director Jason Mitchell, who was hired from Oakland, Calif., by Mayor Brandon Scott to provide transformational leadership to a department rocked by inefficiencies and scandals (here, here, and here), did not did not respond to the IG report.

When the employee in question was authorized by his superiors to work from home, he did not sign the required telecommuting form. And when he applied for a job in the private company, he indicated that his employment with DPW covered the years 2009 to 2020.

“During the review process, the company discovered that the engineer never ended his tenure with the city.”

“The company assumed the engineer’s tenure with the city was over,” the report said, and he was hired to work remotely for the company Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

At the same time, the engineer had to work for DPW from Monday to Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

This arrangement lasted until the spring of 2021 when the engineer requested an internal company transfer, which resulted in a job review.

“During the review process, the company discovered that the engineer never ended his tenure with the city and held both jobs concurrently,” the report said.

No financial disclosure

The engineer stopped filing an annual disclosure report with the city’s ethics committee after 2018 when he was told he was not required to do so. The report requires disclosure of secondary employment.

“If the engineer had been required to file a case but nevertheless failed to disclose the secondary employment, there might have been grounds for an ethics investigation,” Cumming wrote in his report.

Oakland Deputy City Administrator Jason Mitchell officially started in May as the $245,000-a-year DPW director in Baltimore. (oaklandca.gov)

Departmental “surveillance”

As it stands, the employee is not subject to sanctions because the city’s telecommuting policy, which has not been updated since 2017, “does not specifically address the issue of ‘side job while telecommuting,’ Cumming noted.

“During the investigation, DPW advised OIG that the lack of a signed telecommuting agreement was a departmental oversight. DPW asserted that it was rectifying oversight to bring the department into compliance.

Another section of the city’s Administrative Manual (AM) allows secondary employment provided that such employment does not conflict with other city policies, such as the Ethics Act.

The AM “is unclear about duplication while telecommuting. Additionally, the policy does not specify whether an employee can overlap shifts while working for the city and another entity,” the report states.

Recommendations

Given the prospect of at least some degree of remote working in the future, the IG recommended the following to Mayor Scott, City Council and the Human Resources Department:

• Specify the exact hours of employment required during telecommuting and document that employees are not working at another job during those hours.

• Reassess telework authorization if performance issues are identified while an employee is on telework status.

• Revise AM policies to directly address telework situations.

• Consider requiring financial disclosure statements for all non-administrative employees and/or employees above a certain salary or skill level, including engineers and other professionals.

Telework in the future

Developing the use of telecommuting has become a goal of city administrator Chris Shorter.

As the restoration of “resident services” suspended or limited during the pandemic is now underway, Shorter says he and Mayor Scott do not wish to return “to the status quo where all staff show up on site 100% of the time. “.

Shorter recently assembled an internal task force to reinvent the post-pandemic workplace.

To reach this journalist confidentially: reuttermark@yahoo.com


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