Announcements



January 27, 2006


Scott Ellis
Clerk of Courts
400 South Street
Titusville, FL 32781

Mr. Ellis:

Pursuant to your request, we have conducted an internal review and analysis of the overtime hours reported by Brevard County Fire Rescue during the period of September 2, 2004, through September 7, 2004. Though this report is addressed specifically to you, our recommendations are for the Brevard County Board of County Commissioners and specifically the Fire Rescue Department.

PURPOSE

We conducted this internal review and analysis to assess compliance with applicable Federal laws and regulations, Florida Statutes, and the Board of County Commissioners’ policies, procedures, Merit Rules, resolutions, ordinances, and agreements and to verify the uniform application of the above stated rules and regulations across the various County Departments and Agencies.

BACKGROUND

From Thursday, September 2, 2004, through Tuesday, September 7, 2004, an emergency period was declared as Hurricane Frances moved through Brevard County. During this period of time, County employees worked substantial hours completing the various tasks assigned. Many employees worked outside their normal job duties, such as those working at the Special Needs Shelters, and other employees experienced significant increases in their normal responsibilities due to emergency conditions, i.e. Emergency Management, Fire Rescue, Solid Waste, Animal Control, etc.

During this emergency period, County employees were compensated as follows:

Hourly: Eligible for double time and one-half.
Salaried: Eligible for time and one-half (in addition to their normal salaried week)


While an expected increase in overtime hours was recorded during this period of time, only Fire Rescue reported consecutive twenty-four (24) hour days during this period for numerous employees. Over 6,400 hours were reported by Fire Rescue Administration during this six (6) day period at a cost of over $217,000.00

SCOPE

We tested compliance by examining Fire Rescue’s personnel records for the period September 2, 2004, through September 7, 2004. In particular, we reviewed payroll records including time sheets and department reports/logs. Additionally, we interviewed a number of individuals from Fire Rescue (both current and past employees) who were present at the Fire Rescue Center (FRC) during this period of time, as well as, employees from other County Departments and Agencies.

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

FINDING 1 - Hours reported by Fire Rescue Administration (those assigned to the Fire Rescue Center) included off-duty time for sleeping, eating, and personal activities.

During the emergency period of September 2, 2004, through September 7, 2004, sixty-three (63) employees were assigned to the FRC. These employees were each assigned a twelve hour shift with a corresponding color-coded wristband. One shift began at 7:00AM and concluded at 7:00PM (dayshift) and the other began at 7:00PM and concluded at 7:00AM (nightshift). According to the Chief Farmer, timecards were used to track time and attendance logs or sign in/out sheets were unnecessary because personnel were captive in the FRC. Based on our interviews with Fire Rescue personnel, staff was encouraged to eat and rest during the time they were off-duty. Employees were reminded that off-duty personnel were to sleep in Classroom #1 and were asked to be quiet.

The following is based on employee time sheet data during the period September 2, 2004, through September 7, 2004, for those employees reportedly located at the FRC. The cost figures are actual paid emergency-overtime:

Classification Number of Staff Hours Cost
Chiefs 6 670 $30,084.32
Fire Fighter/EMT/Fire Medic 14 1,646.75 42,455.86
Lieutenant/Captain 8 898.25 33,460.28
Secretaries 6 615 20,087.40
Accounting/Finance 3 311 9,136.98
Fire Prevention Inspector 3 335.50 12,765.43
Other 18 1,976 69,308.35
Total 58 6,452.50 $217,298.61

The average number of hours worked per day per employee for the six (6) day period was 18.50. The maximum average was 22.83 hours per day and the minimum was ten (10) hours per day during this period.

On average, the staff at the FRC worked three (3) consecutive twenty-four (24) hour days. Nineteen (19) individuals worked four (4) consecutive twenty-four (24) hour days with one individual recording five (5) consecutive twenty-four (24) hour days.

The reason given for such a large number of hours per employee is that each employee reported all the hours they were present at the FRC as hours worked. Though personnel were assigned to twelve (12) hour shifts that provided for off-duty time and sleeping accommodations, personnel were instructed to report all hours as worked.

The criteria for compensation during periods of required duty for a twenty-four (24) hour workday are found in the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the U.S. Department of Labor’s “interpretive bulletins.” We asked Andrew Hament, Labor Attorney – Gray Robinson, P.A. - for his opinion in regard to these standards how they would apply in these specific circumstances. His conclusion follows:

1. The FLSA requires public employees to [be] paid minimum wage and applicable overtime on hours worked.
2. If an employee is required to be on duty for 24 hours or more, the general rule is that the employee must be paid for all such hours.
3. However, the employer and the employee may agree to exclude bona fide meal periods and a bona fide regularly scheduled sleeping period of not more than 8 hours from hours worked. This agreement may be expressed or implied. To have an implied agreement, the employee obviously must have some awareness of the practice or policy of excluding sleep time.
4. To exclude sleep time from compensable working time, there must also be adequate sleeping facilities and an opportunity to engage in an uninterrupted period of sleep. For enforcement purposes, the DOL has adopted the rule that if the employee cannot get at least 5 hours sleep during the scheduled period, the entire time is working time.

Andrew Hament continues, “The requirement that an employee have an opportunity to enjoy an uninterrupted sleep does not mean that the sleeping period must be free of any interruptions or the possibility of interruptions. In fact, the regulations specifically contemplate that an employee may be interrupted and called to duty during the sleep period. Only a “reasonable” night’s sleep is required.”

In addition to the FLSA, Brevard County Human Resources provided instructions for all county staff regarding time recording for Hurricane Frances. In these instructions, staff was specifically informed that sleep time hours are not counted as time worked.

We interviewed a number of County employees from other departments and found that in each case personnel had an expectation of being compensated only for time worked and not for sleep time hours. Our review and analysis of their hours reported indicate this to be the case. With the exception of Fire Rescue Administration, County employees were not compensated for sleep time.

Since an understanding to excluded sleep time was clearly established by the instructions from Human Resources, since sleeping accommodations were provided by Fire Rescue Administration, and since a twelve-hour (12) off-duty period was provided to each staff, Fire Rescue Administration personnel should not have been compensated for sleep time.

We asked Chief Farmer why Fire Rescue Administration personnel were compensated for sleeping even though this was prohibited by Human Resources. We were told “that portion of the directive was not applicable to Fire Rescue.” According to the Chief, Fire Rescue was given a verbal waiver by the County Manager.

If five (5) hours of each work day (where hours reported were greater than 16) were to be excluded as sleep time, the estimated cost of this sleep time would be more than $45,000 including benefits. If the entire twelve (12) hour off-duty time were excluded, the amount would be greater than $109,000.

RECOMMENDATION – We recommend the County consider the risk of failing to apply its policy uniformly. If one department is compensated for sleeping while others are not, a risk exists that employees will claim unequal compensation. At this point the County should consider withholding funds from Fire Rescue Administration personnel for the sleep time hours or compensate the other County employees who were not paid for sleep time but were on a job site.

FINDING 2 – The staffing level at the Fire Rescue Center during the emergency period was excessive.

To assess the staffing requirements in an emergency situation, we requested a copy of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for the Fire Operations Center (FOC) during a declared emergency. Though we were told on August 23, 2005, that the SOP format is not utilized in FOC operations, Standard Operating Procedures of the Brevard County Fire Rescue Hurricane Preparedness Plan were provided on September 23, 2005. Section E. “Staff Assignments” of the Standard Operating Procedures set forth assignments for Command, Staff and Support personnel. Though a number of personnel positions are mentioned and specifically assigned responsibilities, many of the positions staffed at the FRC during the emergency period were not mentioned in the Standard Operating Procedures as necessary, i.e. Secretaries (6), Accounting/Finance (3), Fire Prevention Inspectors (3), Construction Coordinator, Criminal Justice Services Personnel (2), Crossing Guard Supervisor, Fire Rescue Background Investigator, Quality Assurance Technician, Property Control Agent, etc.

Instead of using the Standard Operating Procedures of the Brevard County Fire Rescue Hurricane Preparedness Plan, Fire Rescue used a daily “Incident Action Plan” which is developed on a daily basis for each emergency. Fire Rescue determined the staffing needs at the FRC for a multi-day event based on the daily Incident Action Plan.

While an increased support structure is required in emergency situations, the Standard Operating Procedures of the Brevard County Fire Rescue Hurricane Preparedness Plan set forth an appropriate level of staffing that is significantly less than the sixty-three (63) assigned to the FRC for six (6) days during the period September 2, 2004, through September 7, 2004.

Brevard County’s emergency management is conducted at the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) under the authority of the Director of Emergency Management. The responsibilities of the Director include planning, mitigation, response, and recovery activities associated with emergencies and disasters within the entire county. This includes the activities of the Fire Rescue Center as it pertains to declared emergencies. Based on our interviews and review of operations, the activities of Fire Rescue Administration, functioning at the Fire Operations Center, were not included in the operating procedures of Emergency Management. Though representatives from Fire Rescue were present at the Emergency Operations Center during the emergency period, the staffing and operations of Fire Rescue Administration were not under the purview of the Director of Emergency Management although the Director is in charge. Lack of coordination between the EOC and the FOC during a declared emergency can result in staffing anomalies (under/over staffing), operational inefficiencies, duplicated efforts, and a breakdown in the chain of command.

RECOMMENDATION – We recommend Fire Rescue reassess its method of determining support staff at the FRC based on daily Incident Action Plans. An emergency, such as Hurricane Frances, is best managed by using the Standard Operating Procedures of the Brevard County Fire Rescue Hurricane Preparedness Plan. Further, we recommend the operations of Fire Rescue Administration be managed by the Director of Emergency Management in the event of declared emergencies.

FINDING 3 – Supporting documentation for payroll records is not properly maintained.

To substantiate the time sheet data during this emergency period, we requested copies of attendance logs or sign in/out sheets for the FRC. Initially we were told that attendance logs were unnecessary because the personnel were captive in the FRC. However, based on the time sheet data and staff interviews, we determined personnel were not captive in the FRC. Further, we learned during the course of our interviews that attendance data was maintained in the form of a Unit Log (Form 214 “214”). We were told that 214’s were completed by Fire Rescue Administration personnel during this emergency period, however, when we asked to review these forms; Fire Rescue was unable to locate them. For this reason, we have been unable to substantiate the time sheet data. A proper system of internal controls will require that supporting documentation be properly completed and maintained. The failure to maintain such supporting documentation can result in errors or fraudulent time sheet reporting.

As reported by the Internal Auditors, in their Audit Review of Fire Rescue dated November 10, 2005, “Lack of proper controls and supporting documentation for employee time reporting can result in fraud as well as non-compliance with state and local laws and ordinances.”

RECOMMENDATION – We recommend Fire Rescue design and implement internal controls to require that supporting documentation for payroll records be properly completed and maintained. These internal controls should be monitored and reported on a regular basis.

FINDING 4 – A submitted time sheet was revised without the knowledge of the employee.

A Fire Rescue employee submitted time sheets reflecting twenty-four (24) hours worked per day during the period of September 2, 2004, through September 7, 2004.

Subsequent to the employee’s submission of the time sheets, an individual in administration revised and amended the time sheets to reflect a reduction in the hours submitted. Specifically, the total hours submitted for Thursday, September 2nd, were reduced from the reported twenty-four (24) hours to eight (8) hours, resulting in a decrease of sixteen (16) hours. Likewise the hours reported for Monday, September 6th, twenty-four (24), were reduced by four (4) hours, for a daily total of twenty (20) hours allowed. Finally, the twenty-four (24) hours reported for Tuesday, September 7th, were reduced by five (5) hours, resulting in a total of nineteen (19) hours allowed. Overall, said employee incurred a total reduction of twenty-five (25) hours.

An internal memo dated September 30, 2004, from Assistant Fire Chief Pat Thomas to Chief Farmer states that the attached 214’s for that period and in particular the days in question (9/2, 9/6 and 9/7) all show that this employee was relieved from duty. Furthermore, there was a handwritten note on the memo, written by Chief Farmer, which states the employee’s “214’s clearly indicate [the employee] ended [the employee] shifts and in some cases that [the employee] left the building.”

Based on our review of the time sheets and the 214’s the following was reported as hours worked.

September 2, 2004: 0800 report to work
1700 departed work

September 6, 2004 0800 began dayshift
2000 began downtime

September 7, 2004 0700 began dayshift
1900 ended dayshift

The adjustment to the employee’s time-card for September 2nd may be warranted based the employee’s own 214 for that day. The employee claimed twenty-four (24) hours which was subsequently reduced to eleven (11) hours or eight (8) hours depending on the internal document reviewed. However, it is unclear why the employee’s hours were reduced on September 6th and September 7th.

To date, the employee is still uncertain as to exactly why the submitted time sheet was revised. Furthermore, the employee claims to have worked the same hours as other employees on the dayshift and that the shift did not end early, except as instructed by the employee’s supervisor.

RECOMMENDATION – Fire Rescue should review the employee’s time sheet and payroll history and ensure the employee is compensated in a manner consistent with the compensation received by other Fire Rescue Administration personnel,


Submitted by:



_________________________
Richard L. Scoles, CPA, CIA
Internal Audit
Clerk of Circuit Court


Conducted by:



_________________________ _________________________
J. Roger Shealy, CPA, CIA Douglas W. Baker, JD
Internal Audit Internal Audit
Clerk of Circuit Court Clerk of Circuit Court