Audit: NC Ferry Division hired workers' relatives

Posted July 7, 2011

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— An audit spurred by a former employee's allegations found that the state agency that runs North Carolina's ferries employs too many people related to each other and needs to better manage its budget.

The State Auditor's report on the state Department of Transportation's Ferry Division did not support allegations that employees worked overtime just to increase their pay, approved their relatives' payroll and made questionable purchases.

The DOT had requested the audit last August over allegations from former director Harold "Buddy" Finch, who was fired after two months on the job.

A review of 59 employees found 13 cases, or 22 percent, in which an employee worked under or with a relative at the same location or during the same shift. Six employees, or 10 percent, didn't disclose their family ties when applying for their job.

In one case, an administrative assistant could have entered payroll hours for a relative but did not do so.

The audit found that no wrongdoing had occurred, but the risk "is realistic given the significant number of relatives working within the Ferry Division."

State policy states that no worker can supervise or have influence over a relative, and state DOT policy stipulates that relatives may not work in a situation where they would come in contact with each other.

The Ferry Division said it has since reassigned a few employees, asked current employees to list all their relatives working for the division and is monitoring the hiring process more closely. It has also limited the number of employees with access to payroll system.

The audit found that the Ferry Division didn't break down its budget properly for its different locations and smaller units. That left local managers without the information needed to run their operations according to budget, the report states.

The agency has started breaking down its budget for managers and requiring them to match up their actual spending with the planned budget monthly.

Ferry Division employees worked extensive overtime, but not with an intention to pad their pay, the audit found.

Employees earned $930,000 in scheduled overtime in the 2010-11 fiscal year – the equivalent of 40 full-time workers at an average salary of $23,000. Between January 2008 and October 2010, workers accumulated $1.4 million in unscheduled overtime.

The audit recommended changing workers' set schedule, which includes eight hours of overtime every two weeks. It also suggested creating a pool of temporary workers and reviewing ferry schedules.

The Ferry Division said it's also tightening requirement for spending, including getting at least three quotes for all purchases over $2,500. The division is also replacing its credit cards.


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  • ecualumni1982 Jul 8, 2011

    $930,000 seems like an huge amount of overtime. They either need to hire more staff or some temp or flat rate paid people. Example, if you have a trades worker making 45K plus time 1/2 you maybe paying them 60-70K a year or you could hire 5 flat rate paid workers.

  • davidbh61255 Jul 8, 2011

    The free ferry system needs to go!!

  • miseem Jul 7, 2011

    Doesn't seem to be a of of negatives in this audit. A bunch of "could haves", not any "dids". Of course, an audit is as much concerned with closing loopholes in management as it is in catching past misdeeds. However, I think that anyone proposing privatization should expect less qualified workers (they are cheaper) and higher ferry prices (hey - got to keep those profits coming)

  • sunshine1040 Jul 7, 2011

    And this is different then any other state agency how?

  • Riddickfield Jul 7, 2011

    Well considering the size of the population native to the islands its not suprising that they hired folks who are related to each other.

  • oleguy Jul 7, 2011

    I agree,,, Most all the Hi Tiders I have met were honost hard working people, Manage their overtime and let them work at what they and their familys have always done, Let the entire family work, But the management must also do its job.

  • elmer Jul 7, 2011

    a couple years ago we were stranded on the outer banks due to a big noreaster, when the ferries got started again we took one back, our trouble started with some young man who had about as much trainnig as our dog in parking vehicles on the boat. we have a 30 camper and he got us so twisted up that the captain had to instruct us as to whicn way to turn to get off and actited like it was me that was at fault. i have pulled pole trailers with 100 ft pole on them and never had any trouble i say let it all be privatized

  • Big Mike Jul 7, 2011

    I could care less if their granny is steering the boat as long as it's on time and safe.....

  • whatusay Jul 7, 2011

    Simple solution, privatize it, sell it and get the tax payers out of the ferry business. Let the private owners hire who they want.

  • are you kidding me Jul 7, 2011

    democratic way...republicans too