WRAL Investigates

Top state workers rack up thousands in travel expenses

Posted May 3, 2010
Updated May 4, 2010

WRAL Investigates
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— In these difficult budget times, state agencies are pressed to cut. But at the Department of Revenue, some expenses don't change.

Travel expenses add up for top state managers Travel expenses add up for top state managers

The vast majority of the nearly 1,400 revenue employees pay their own way to commute to work. However, internal records show taxpayers cover much of the commute costs for two top managers.

John Sadoff, who makes $119,000 annually to head up the tax compliance division, and Alan Woodard, who earns $93,000 as director of examinations, both get reimbursed for all of their business travel, according to Department of Revenue Secretary Ken Lay.

Lay says auditors and supervisors travel all over the state. WRAL found Sadoff and Woodard, who live in the Charlotte area, racked up sizable mileage, food and lodging costs – often logging trips directly from home to the main office in Raleigh.

During the past two years, Sadoff was reimbursed more than $42,000, and Woodard got back nearly $36,000. WRAL shared the numbers with lawmakers, including Rep. John Blust, R-Guilford.

“I'm very interested in the outcome of this, because I think there's a lot of this through state government,” Bloust said.

“I don't think it's unreasonable,” said Lay, who noted that expenses for Sadoff and Woodard make up less than 1 percent of the department's entire travel budget.

While the two high-ranking officials did travel the state, records show the majority of their time was spent in Raleigh.

During the two year period which WRAL examined, Sadoff was in Raleigh 325 days. During that same time, he traveled to nine other towns a total of 30 times. Woodard spent 248 days in Raleigh between 2008 and 2009 and 28 days in six other cities outside Charlotte.

When asked if he understands that other state employees might wonder why they are not reimbursed for commuting to work, Lay said “the emPHAsis is on the wrong syLLAble.”

The secretary joked that travel reimbursement questions are misguided. He says telecommuting or moving to Raleigh can't eliminate the need for travel.

Still, the more than 300-mile round-trip commute is not minuscule. Records show Sadoff traveled to Raleigh last year 167 out of 261 business days, or 64 percent of the time. Woodard spent 131 work days in Raleigh, or 50 percent of the time.

“We need to ask our managers to review their costs and see what we can do to reduce them,” said Sen. David Hoyle, D-Gaston.

Hoyle said he believes it's a business decision for the Department of Revenue.

“What's the value of these people to the company and is this justifiable in their compensation?” he asked.

Lay argues that his veteran employees are invaluable and points to the $424 million in unexpected corporate tax collections the department brought in last year. Sadoff and Woodard led the way.

“I think that's a pretty good return on investment,” Lay said. “John Sadoff is the Lebron James of tax compliance.”

Yet, as all agencies complain about budget troubles, Lay admits the expenses of his stars deserve a closer look.

“Well, certainly, now that the issue has come up, I'm going to look at it,” he said.

WRAL ran calculations using state motor fleet vehicles instead of personal cars. While a state car wouldn't eliminate the costs, it could reduce expenses by thousands of dollars based on mileage.

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  • sru926 May 13, 4:04 p.m.

    In a Serious matter, our secretary decides to be a comedian...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7BlUF9oZWfY

    ...Go figure.........

  • sru926 May 13, 3:52 p.m.

    How do these guys get a way with this? It is my understanding that as part of their employment agreement, they were allowed to use Charlotte as their workstation even though they would spend the majority of time in Raleigh. Consequently, they are allowed reimbursement for travel between the two cities...Not illegal but highly unethical...What should be investigated however, is whether these people had an opportunity on these trips to use a state vehicle but declined and decided to use their own vehicle instead..For if this is the case, per Department policy, the mileage rate reimbursement should not be the full IRS rate of 0.55 cents per mile but half that rate...And if they took the full rate on their expense vouchers, this would be illegal and would be grounds for termination...Of course, I doubt you will ever see any disciplinary action and these people will likely only get a slap on the wrist.....Love the NC politics

    Go figure.......

  • alittleinfo4u May 7, 7:41 p.m.

    Since 2000, this guy has been allowed to be paid to travel to his primary working location.Since this is not an allowable deduction, could this not be considered taxable income?He is allowed to do as he wants with no questions.He has his favored and that is told by the salaries.It has been known for a long time that the power & money lays in the Charlotte office.This now explains why there is no money for career banding to bring the employees that DO the work, up to the market rate.Also, there are those revenue employees outside of North Carolina that bring in the really BIG money to the department were forced to take a $3600 pay cut because of the budget.Now what steps are going to be taken to correct these actions? NONE! Lay has no one to answer to other than Purdue.He seems to think all is well and that this will blow over. Lay is the Mike Brown of Revenue.It is time for a new coaching staff and some players need to get traded.Can we find the Michael Jordan of revenue?

  • wralcom1734 May 6, 2:14 p.m.

    The public response to this shows why it is impossible to attract the best and brightest into State Government. I don't know anything about these guys, but do know that audit managers in most large firms and accounting houses make much more than the article shows the State pays these guys. Allowing them to live where they've settled their families and paying modest commuting expenses seems reasonable.

    I would never work in an environment where the details of my pay and expeses were subject to so much scorn and public abuse.

  • Fabulous May 5, 7:50 p.m.

    The TRUTH...John Sadoff has been getting away with this for over 10 years. He is unfair, a crook, shows favoritism to white males and he is just flat out unethical. Look at the salaries of the people that worked under him compared to people in similiar positions. He has an office in Charlotte and Raleigh...I thought only the Governor did that. DOR need to make him pay back all the money for the commuting miles per the state travel policy. I know other state employees have to ride together when they are going to the same place why can't John Sadoff & Alan Woodard? They are too good for that...right! Heck some people have to share hotel rooms with co-workers. They should not have those positions because they do not exemplify "SERVICE EXCELLENCE". I hope they get a BG (Below Good) on their PEPs for the category: Travel in the most cost effective manner.

  • Big Earl May 5, 6:51 p.m.

    DOR is about the worst State agency to work in. The
    leadership has created an environment where morale is at
    rock bottom. Anyone that can leave has left. Stories like this only make it worse for the career employees that have to put up with the low pay, getting yelled at all day by the public (for decisions made by politicians and managers that have no clue) and having no real chance of career advancement. When word of this story hit, there were smiles everywhere from DOR employees that thought it was about time that these two were busted. Also, it's been going on for much longer than 2 years.

  • superman May 5, 1:43 p.m.

    Being a good employee is "expected". If you not doing your job-- you should get fired! Surely they are not the only two in the department that are doing what they paid to do. Fire all three of them and start over.

  • dumbfounded70 May 5, 1:13 p.m.

    Where do the other DOR Assistant Secretaries live and which office is considered "their" office? I would think that a position of this stature would be required to live and work in the "MAIN" office in Raleigh along side the Secretary himself.

  • DowntownGirl May 5, 12:21 p.m.

    While Sadoff and Woodard may have "led the way" in the $424 milion in "unexpected corporate tax collections" one would think it's safe to assume that employees working under them had a lot to do with this as well and that it was not these two working solo who accomplished this feat. And, of course, if they're so good at their jobs, why were these collections "unexpected" and not collected previously? Perhaps they don't do their jobs as well as Mr. Lay thinks! And, NO ONE, absolutely NO One is irreplaceable. There is always someone, indeed a lot of someones who can do the same job just as well or better coming up behind them. If they choose not to relocate to Raleigh where the job seems to be, I'm sure there is someone else who would LOVE to have the job!

  • FE May 5, 11:51 a.m.

    freedom - Per well-established rules, you cannot get paid for meals unless there is an overnight stay involved. (SOME departments will pay for a very late dinner or a very early breakfast if the work day is really stretched due to travel.)

    The logic is that you have to eat somewhere, so if you work in Raleigh but business takes you to/from Fayetteville, there is absolutely no allowable reimbursement for "lunch."

    Documented local travel from one work location to a second location IN THE SAME DAY is also a valid expense, but never the "first" nor "last" trip of that day. And generally speaking a state-owned vehicle "is available" which cuts back tremendously on the expenses that will be paid for any use of a POV.

    (Lots of folks just don't like those yellow tags - know what I mean?!?)

    FE

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