DALLAS - A Fox 4 News investigation uncovered four City of Dallas employees failed to report 562 vacation hours they took, amounting to more than $28,000 worth of time.
This development follows an August 2015 audit that revealed the city could not account for as much as $60 million paid out to employees.
After Fox 4 broke that story, Lori Brown fought city hall to obtain public records showing just how much time went unaccounted for.
We now know Karl Zavitkovsky, the Director of Economic Development, was among the city workers who failed to report vacation time. Zavitkovsky did not report 178 hours of leave, even though he did not work those hours. He made $147,000 a year at the time.
Three other employees in that same department also had vacation days unaccounted for.
Two employees didn’t document 56 and 96 vacation hours each. A third, the worst offender, didn’t document 232 hours. That’s 29 days of work in 12 months. That particular worker collected a $110,000 salary that year.
All four employees, including Zavitkovsky, kept their jobs after the discovery.
Mike McDonald works for a private company downtown.
“I think they should be probably terminated,” McDonald said, when we shared our findings. “They're taking advantage of their employer, and the city of Dallas, and the taxpayers.”
We asked Zavitkovsky for an interview, but he said no.
When we caught up with him at City Hall, Zavitkovsky did not stop to answer our questions and quickly ducked behind secured doors.
His boss, City Manager A.C. Gonzalez, did the same.
Fox 4’s Lori Brown asked, “How can you trust your economic development director?”
Gonzalez did not answer.
A short time later, both men left through a private exit, avoiding our cameras.
That wasn’t the first time the city dodged our questions.
For two months, the city refused to provide Fox 4 public records detailing exactly how much time was unaccounted for. Texas law dictates government agencies must reply to this type of request within a 10-day period.
Fox 4 filed a complaint to the Texas Attorney General, who issued a letter to the city, ordering them to release the records. We got the totals the very same day.
City council member Scott Griggs said the city’s response to Fox 4’s request is unacceptable.
“That was unacceptable with the city withholding information that is public information, and having to use the [Attorney General’s] office to get it sorted out," Griggs said.
Griggs also called the lack of oversight “outrageous.”
“Employers should be watching their employees," said Griggs. “It's unfortunate but time is the easiest thing to steal at City Hall.”
On top of the delays, the city backtracked on their own paperwork.
The city’s original document showed 824 unreported hours. Using each employee’s salary, we determined that time is worth more than $41,000.
When the city saw our calculations, they sent a new document dropping the number of unreported hours to 562.
A spokesperson would only say the new document removed “offsetting entries” that could have been “confusing.” The document also swapped out one employee with a subordinate who earned a lower salary that year. The city did not offer further explanation of the changes.
The employees don’t have to pay the money back. A spokesperson assured Fox 4 each person had earned the time he or she took and said the city has now deducted those hours from their accounts. That means they will no longer get a payout for that vacation time when they retire.
Just before this story aired on January 25, 2016, the city released this written statement:
"The audit from eight months ago showed us that four City employees had not been properly entering their time. Karl Zavitkovsky, Director of the Office of Economic Development, was one of those employees. He immediately rectified the situation and was reprimanded. The audit did not accuse employees of stealing from the City, but rather identified four employees who had not entered any leave time for the period of the audit, indicating an operational issue that needed to be addressed. This is a normal audit procedure and we have since worked diligently with managers to ensure employees are entering their time correctly. We are also in the process of procuring a new time-entry system that will have increased functionality to address the auditor’s recommendations."
The city did not specify how Zavitkovsky was reprimanded or how exactly a new time-keeping system would address the problem.