Complaints of falsifying time cards leaves 'morale in the toilet' at Augusta Recreation Dept.

By: Chris Thomas Email
By: Chris Thomas Email
Recreation department

One whistleblower says things are on a downward spiral and reveals complaints of a hostile work environment at the city recreation department. (WRDW-TV / March 5, 2012)

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Monday, March 5, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- An Augusta recreation department whistleblower claims "morale is in the toilet" and says the director is falsifying time cards.

"We are doing the right thing," said Recreation Director Tom Beck. We've got nothing to hide."

The whistleblower detailed the issues in an email regarding "augustawreckreation."

"We're not doing that now," Beck said. "We're not going to do some sort of drama story about some sort of allegation."

The whistleblower suggests that things are on a downward spiral and reveals complaints of a hostile work environment.

"Any truth to that?" we asked Beck.

"No comments along those lines," Beck responded.

As for falsifying time cards?

"Is it false?" we asked.

"It is inaccurate," Beck replied.

"But you won't say if it's false?" we asked Beck.

"It is inaccurate," Beck replied again.

The city administrator won't rule out disciplinary action.

"You never rule that out during the middle of an investigation," said City Administrator Fred Russell.

Beck says the explanation is simple.

"We have employees who work a lot of hours. Sometimes they are given time back off for working an extra hour," Beck said. "That's something that has been going on for many years."

Sources tell News 12 this case involves Beck granting a full week's compensatory time.

"The question becomes at this time," Russell said, "whether or not that individual is actually qualified for comp time."

"Is this a salaried employee?" we asked Beck.

"Yes these are salaried employees that are exempt from any overtime," Beck said.

Commissioner Bill Lockett was shocked to learn this is common practice in the recreation department.

"That is extremely serious. That is trust and that is integrity," he said. "If we can't trust, then we don't need you."

"Is this acceptable to you?" we asked Russell.

"No. And that becomes the issue," Russell said. "There has got to be a better way to do that."

Mr. Beck was supposed to meet with city leaders this afternoon. The investigation has been underway for about a week. Stay with News 12 for updates.

The letter from the whistleblower:
I know from my past exposure to most of you that the media loves a mix of facts and “overheard." I am going to present you with a mix of both. Items I list as fact, are verifiable. Items listed as overheard are just that, but, based on many years working for ARC, I have reason to suspect there is, at the very least, basis in fact. I did not witness first hand, but have spoken with people that were present. Let’s see what you guys do with this. Will you look into it or sweep it under the rug as has been done so many times in the past?

There are some problems in The Augusta Recreation, Parks and Facilities that have not been made public yet.

FACT:
- The director and at least one employee, Melinda Pearson, are under investigation for falsification of time cards. The investigation into the time card situation is being conducted by HR and Bill Shanahan.
-Actions have been filed against Melinda Pearson for creating a hostile work environment. This is not the first time, but she is a favorite of the director and gets away with a lot that other employees would not.
-There is rampant favoritism shown to a select few long term employees. So much so that, during the recent reorganization, the employees selected to be deputy directors admitted that they were told the interviews were a formality. The selections had been made long before. In fact, it has been stated that [name redacted] was handpicked for one AD slot, but they had to go through the motions with Stroud because they had to at least show an attempt at diversity.
-At the 2010 Christmas Luncheon, Tom Beck spent a significant portion of his address to employees berating them for not contributing to United Way and making him look bad.
-Melinda Pearson has a personal vendetta against the employee that filed an action against her for hostile work environment. This is personal, she wants him gone.

OVERHEARD:
-Bill Shanahan is reporting routinely to Fred Russell regarding the time cards investigation and those reports are being relayed back to the Department Director. Evidence may have been “lost” or misplaced as a result of these reports.
-Melinda Pearson threatened to discipline on employee for failing to attend her mother’s funeral.
-[Name redacted], one of the AD’s, had an action filed against her recently. Tom Beck was overheard telling her to take the punishment and he’s make it up to her. They would take action to deal with the employee later.
-Former AD Dennis Stroud was let go with no indication that his performance was lacking. [Name redacted] has had actions filed against her and is still there. Take a look at photos of each and see if you can figure a possible motive. [Name redacted] handpicked for AD slot, but had to go through the motions with Stroud

GENERAL COMMENTS:
-No one believes anything will be done about these issues and, if they say something, there will be retribution and the director’s temper is well known.
-Morale is in the toilet. The select few are looked after at the expense of everyone else.


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