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The Suburbanite
  • State releases Canton retire-rehire audit numbers

  • The state auditor has released its financial report linked to the city of Canton’s retire and rehire investigation. The bottom line is that the city owes about 35 former workers roughly $540,000 collectively and, in return, the ex-employees owe about $588,000 collectively, according to the document.

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  • The state auditor’s office has determined how much money is owed by about 35 former employees and the city in the retire and rehire investigation.
    After all the numbers are crunched, the city owes the employees roughly $540,000 collectively and the former workers owe the city about $588,000 collectively in excess benefits, according to the state auditor’s report.
    That’s a net difference of $48,000 in favor of the city.
    The state report centers on about 35 former city employees, most of whom lost their positions in January when the city said they could no longer hold their jobs because they had not been rehired properly when retiring strictly to start collecting a state pension.
    The city had asked the state agency to conduct a financial review, which Bates Aylward said she considers the report an audit.
    The report found many workers received too much compensation from the changeover; some of them  still are owed.
    Depending on the employee group, their package could include longevity pay, health care, pension, compensatory time, vacation, sick time and good attendance.
    COLLECTION
    Efforts will be made to collect money owed to the city, and the city will pay what the report says is due to the former workers, Bates said. She said the city has 30 days to start collection efforts.
    “The vast, vast majority of this money will be easily collected,” Bates Aylward said, noting the city simply can deduct what the former workers owe from what the city owes them for accrued and unused vacation and sick time.
    City Council previously voted to set aside roughly $1 million for the payouts.
    The only true collection efforts involve a handful of employees who owe more to the city than they are due. Those “overpayments” range from $12,057 to $65,280, the report said.
    Findings for recovery for public money illegally expended have been issued against five employees, but one of them, Linda Patterson, the city’s former human resources director, already has repaid the $15,568, according to the state auditor’s report.
    AUDITORS LIABLE
    Both former City Auditor Kim Perez and current Auditor Richard A. Mallonn II signed the paperwork resulting in improper payments, the report said. Mallonn and the bonding company, EMC Insurance Co., will be jointly liable for roughly $84,000 if the money cannot be recovered from the former employees.
    “The important thing is the investigation is completed and the taxpayers can be made whole and the employees can be made whole for what’s owed them,” Mallonn said.
    “Unfortunately the sequence of events led us down this path to administer these decisions incorrectly,” he added. He referred to the 30 employees who lost their jobs in January as “committed and dedicated.”
    Page 2 of 2 - “I certainly regret that the situation has occurred and certainly I regret my staff’s role in this error,” Mallonn said.
    “My heart goes out to those 30 employees and their families,” he said. “It’s an unfortunate situation.”
    Perez and the bonding company, Kagle and Solomon Insurance, will be jointly liable for roughly $26,000 if the money is not collected from a former city employee.
    Perez, who plans to run for city treasurer in the spring primary election, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
    WAGES NOT A FACTOR
    Wages are not part of the calculation, according to the report.
    That has been an area of concern in the city’s retire and rehire investigation. The law department and city administration both said the group of workers had been hired back at the same pay level and with the same benefits. At least in many cases, the employees should have started at a lower wage, under union and civil service rules, city officials have said.
    Excess wages were not included in the state report because it would be too difficult and too speculative to determine, Bates Aylward said.
    The practice of receiving a state pension and working in a public position is often referred to as “double dipping.” Government employees are allowed to retire and get hired by the same public entity as long as state law is followed for the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System.
    The employees had not received the approval of their appointing authority to get rehired, according to the city law department.