Paid time off has cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars as federal employees under investigation for various abuses still collected a paycheck, even when they were off work.
This fact was illustrated in an audit released on March 9 by the inspector general of the Social Security Administration which showed that four years after he was arrested for assault, one particular judge was still collecting his salary for years…. to the tune of $500,000 in all.
The audit covered the period of January 2009 through July 2015, all during the Obama administration.
The audit revealed a number of abuses of the paid time off system. A report in the The Washington Free Beacon said that “the audit identified 46 federal employees who received an average of 2,000 hours of paid administrative leave over a seven-year period.”
In other words, 46 government employees were paid not to work for 261 days; which translates into one full year in terms of employment.
The audit uncovered the fact that “an administrative law judge (ALJ) was paid for 865.75 days after he was arrested for drunkenly assaulting a female security officer. The judge still earned his roughly $125,000 salary while he was suspended. And he wasn’t the only one. In fact, there were a dozen more cases where the inspector general learned that administrative leave had been given to ALJs who were slated to be removed “for misconduct or poor performance.”
The inspector general said that the length of time an employee remains on administrative leave can vary due to a variety factors, including the various legal steps that must be taken by the agency before suspension or removal of an employee. They can also be affected by officials who “exercise discretion and allow employees to remain on administrative leave while the Agency investigates their misconduct,” he said.
ALJs actually enjoy special privileges under federal law. According to the inspector general, “To suspend an ALJ without pay or terminate an ALJ’s employment, SSA must establish good cause on the record and offer an opportunity for a hearing before the [Merit Systems Protection Board] MSPB. SSA’s Office of General Counsel interprets these provisions to apply until the ALJ has exhausted all appeals before the MSPB, a lengthy process that can result in grants of thousands of hours of administrative leave.”
It was documented that one drunken ALJ assaulted a female security guard in an SSA hearing office. “The next day, SSA placed the ALJ on administrative leave. While investigating the incident, law enforcement identified a second woman the ALJ assaulted in the hearing office in June 2011,” recalled the inspector general, adding that the although the judge had been arrested for the two crimes in 2012, it took four years until the was actually fired. In addition, the government had to pay a $50,000 settlement to the assaulted security guard.
It was reported that the convicted judge was paid a salary of more than $500,000 during the 6,926 hours he spent on administrative leave.
“In cases that did not involve ALJs, instead of immediately using indefinite suspension provisions for alleged misconduct, Agency officials exercised their discretion and authority and allowed employees to remain on administrative leave pending completion of investigations into the alleged misconduct,” said the inspector general. “For example, SSA placed a field office employee on administrative leave in March 2014 because of threatening, intimidating, offensive, and disruptive behavior. After an Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and Office of General Counsel investigation verified the misconduct, SSA terminated his employment in March 2015.”
That employee was given 202 full-time days of administrative leave before he was actually fired and removed from the payroll.
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