Wiscasset selectmen have ordered Town Manager Arthur Faucher to investigate a question of altered time sheets adding 10 extra hours of pay for Wiscasset three full time police officers.
The allegedly altered time sheets raised official eyebrows when reported to the Wiscasset Board of Selectmen Tuesday night. Selectman Pam Dunning revealed the discrepancy at the end of the meeting.
Dunning said changes had been made to the original time sheets, originally showing “vacation time” written beside the names, but then whited out, and 40 hours inserted.
Dunning brought a spreadsheet showing the payroll for dates March 6-Aug. 13, saying the original documents had been shredded.
“I’d like to know where the money came from to pay for this,” she said.
Selectman Phil Di Vece brought up the matter of union negotiations with the police department, which he said had broken down, and the board hashed over whether an agreement had been made in lieu of the board signing a new contract to allow the officers comp time for their overtime work.
After the meeting, Faucher said he asked Lt. John Allen about the alleged change, which Faucher said was a way of compensating Allen and the other two full-time officers. He said Allen spoke about an agreement between the union representative and former board chairman David Nichols Jr. at a meeting in Faucher’s office.
According to Allen, he prepared the time sheets based on his understanding of an informal agreement between the union representative, Faucher and Nichols.
According to Allen, the agreement followed a breakdown in union negotiations. Wiscasset police have been working without a contract since Jan. 1. After negotiations stalled, the union representative suggested the police ask for an extra week of vacation time, 40 hours for each of Wiscasset’s three full-time officers, Allen said.
Faucher suggested the added hours be counted as comp time, rather than vacation time. During the discussion with Faucher, in Faucher’s office, then board chairman David Nichols stopped in. He was updated on the conversation and said he didn’t have a problem with the comp time issue, Allen said.
Allen said he has an email from the union representative on the issue, and has kept all the relevant records. “The town manager asked me to do the payroll sheets for comp time,” Allen said.
“I did exactly as I was told,” Allen said. “Everything was approved by the town manager and the chairman of the board of selectmen. I have got nothing to hide… I guess what should have happened is it should have been sanctioned in a public meeting.”
Following a Wednesday morning meeting with Allen in his office, Faucher confirmed Allen’s understanding, saying he now recalls the basic agreement and the relevant meeting. Faucher said still he has to talk to a couple more people to wrap up his report but he does not think it will be an ongoing investigation.
“I probably met with him a half an hour ago,” Faucher said. “If you’re asking me if this is a big issue, if this is case of fraud or something like that, that is not the case.”
The meeting Allen referred to apparently took place about six months ago. According to Selectman Bill Curtis’ recollection, neither he nor Nichols made any agreement with the union representative. Faucher said he was in the room at the time and does not remember any kind of agreement regarding the comp time issue.
Curtis said he and Nichols, who usually did the negotiating with the union representative, never made any agreement about money matters at all. He said he and Nichols would have had to bring any agreement back to the board for discussion.
Town Manager Faucher said he had been investigating the situation after the matter was brought to his attention. After the meeting Tuesday night, Faucher called Nichols over the telephone in his office, using speakerphone mode. Nichols also said there never was any agreement about money.
“We apologized that we didn’t have any money to give, ” he said.
During the open meeting time, resident Richard Hanson expressed his dismay over the alleged occurrence. “I’m very upset,” he said. “Somebody has to be accountable. It’s not acceptable in a business world.”
At the close of the board discussion in open session, the board voted to have Faucher make a detailed investigation and report back to the board on any findings before involving an attorney, as was suggested. Chairman Bob Blagden said that would be a good first step in the process.
Another article concerning $12,040 to address the revenue shortfall for Wiscasset Municipal Airport also appears on the secret ballot for next Tues., Sept. 8.
“We were thinking we owed him money,” he said.
However, upon careful inspection of the payroll, Faucher reported Harbormaster Peter Dalton received $16,805, which is beyond the $15,028 set for his annual salary. The difference was for 73.5 hours he worked the previous fiscal year, he said.
Some days he worked over the 30 hours and other days he worked under according to a record of hours for the payroll, which has been done since Dalton was hired, unlike past practice. “It balanced out,” Faucher said.
Although Dalton receives a salary, the total he receives is calculated in terms of an hourly rate of $15.12 per hour. A consensus of the board agreed with Dunning’s suggestion he should be paid so much per week for the remainder of what is left of his salary through the end of this fiscal year 2009-2010.
In the past, the town paid harbormasters a salary during the busy waterfront months, and during the winter paid a stipend for reduced work hours.
The board has postponed any decision in the bid process for the task of repairing roof problems to investigate further.