WRAL Investigates

State pays thousands to employees on leave

Posted July 22, 2013

— Over the past two years, nearly 900 state workers were sent home while the state investigated their workplace conduct. While on investigatory leave, the workers collected more than $1.7 million in salaries, state personnel records show.

Search: State workers put on investigatory leave

When employees face allegations of harassment, misuse of state property, poor job performance or other issues, state leaders say sending them home with pay makes sense because there’s less interference with investigations.

State agencies can place employees on investigatory placement for up to 30 days, according to a rule in the N.C. Administrative Code, which went into effect on Oct. 1, 1995. Beyond that, the agency must get an extension approved by the Office of State Personnel. The WRAL Investigates team found some workers getting paid for months while awaiting the outcome of their investigation.

Of the 888 workers put on investigatory placement in the past two years, 209 were eventually fired. They collected about $483,000 while the state made up its mind. Another 203 were punished, demoted, suspended or quit. More than half the workers put on paid leave were reinstated with no demotion or suspensions.

Records show the average leave took about 10 work days to resolve. Some took much longer. One state Department of Transportation employee was placed on leave for 39 days. The worker was paid $21,493 and then was fired. A state Department of Revenue employee was on leave for more than two months in the summer of 2011, collected $14,000 in pay and then retired.

One worker from the state Department of Health Human Services collected more than $17,000 while sitting at home at for six months. The worker was eventually suspended without pay, according to personnel records.

During his first State of the State address, Gov. Pat McCrory talked tough to North Carolina's 125,000 state workers about doing their jobs. “We want to reward our talented state employees, but seat warmers must be a thing of the past,” he said.

Dana Cope State employees on investigatory leave still collect paychecks

In an interview this week, McCrory said investigatory leave is part of state administrative code and allows supervisors to remove an employee from the workplace with pay if there's a question of safety or disruption.

“We looked at (investigatory placement) when we took over this office because we were concerned about these numbers. We know we want to pay people to do their job, not to sit at home,” McCrory said. “The purpose is: you want to get all the facts before dealing with an employee.”

Steve Sloan, a former assistant director with the state Division of Emergency Management, was placed on a 30-day investigatory leave in April 2012 while the agency investigated nepotism reports. He and another emergency management employee involved in the case were eventually fired. Another worker quit.

Sloan and the other two employees were paid a combined total of about $21,000 while the state investigated.

Duane Deaver, a former State Bureau of Investigation agent who came under fire over questionable blood analysis, was paid about $14,000 while on leave for more than two months. He returned to work, only to be fired in January 2011.

Dana Cope, executive director of the State Employees Association of North Carolina, says the paid leave is necessary to protect the employee and the agency.

“Yes, it does cost money, but it's all in the effort to provide justice,” Cope said. “You wouldn't want to penalize that public servant for doing their job day in and day out for having to face an allegation that is simply untrue. That would be unfair.”

While hundreds of workers got their jobs back, the state still paid out about $788,000 while they stayed home. McCrory says his administration is focused on reducing the number of paid leave cases and their duration. Records bear out a 20 to 25 percent decrease so far.

“We're trying to do it much more quickly, so we aren't wasting taxpayer money,” McCrory said.

114 Comments

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  • Sherlock Jul 24, 5:31 p.m.

    Free money

  • GingerTea Jul 24, 10:43 a.m.

    Not every state employee under investigation is sent home with paid leave. Probably the majority are sent to other locations and do work while the investigation is going on. Since the Department of Public Safety umbrellas so many agencies, my question would be, which agencies utilize the unpaid leave? Think about it.

  • editor8 Jul 24, 10:33 a.m.

    Judging from comments here, the notion of establishing proof of wrongdoing is not in the equation. Picking up trash? This is like saying a person accused of a crime, let's say assault, should go wash police cars and cut grass in the park until his or her court date rolls around and guilt or innocence is determined. Some people leave their Thinking Caps on the peg, don't they?

  • karrgal77 Jul 24, 10:19 a.m.

    so you would punish state employees and put them to work picking up garbage like prisoners? Have you ever done litter clean-up? I have, and its pretty demanding work that a full day would be a lot for someone who has been desk bound for their career. I am not against re-assigning, but in something that was compirable to their skill set.

  • Mo Blues Jul 24, 9:50 a.m.

    Since these are state employees under investigation, there's nothing wrong or "regressive" with simply reassigning them to a road clean-up crew awaiting the results. Instead of a paid vacation, have them earn their state paycheck.

    Have them show up at the garage by 8:00am, give them a reflective vest plus a stick with a nail on the end and have them pick up trash along I-440 each day until 5:00pm. They're out of the way of the investigation, and they can improve their health and lose weight at the same time! Plus, they're earning their taxpayer-funded salary.

    Win-win.

  • joeBob Jul 24, 9:16 a.m.

    An audit came out years ago showing how the state could improve it's finances if could just quit having to pay lawsuit claims on state employees who either were suing the state or were being sued because they had injured or killed someone while on the job. The state did nothing with that information. They should vendor out and subcontract every position they can to avoid the waste of money revealed in this article as well to defer the liability. It's not complicated.

  • saywhat37 Jul 24, 9:10 a.m.

    That's a tough one. I'm sure there are those who didn't do anything and deserve to keep getting their paychecks and there are those who definitely need firing and lose that paycheck immediately but you have to treat both the same until its investigated. If not, that person who really did nothing wrong will sue the state and end up getting more than just their paycheck. I'm sure McCrory would insist on getting his if he was being investigated!

  • dollibug Jul 24, 8:20 a.m.

    There are many *ISSUES* which the NC General Assembly needs to address....it is sad now that money is *TIGHT* and they are trying to figure out how to *REDUCE SPENDING*....when things were better they should have been *saving for a rainy day, instead of finding ways to spend the surplus. And to think that some government people have BIG salaries while others are being reduced....or cut off completely. People with NO JOBS now have little or nothing to depend upon to live. Something is NOT QUITE RIGHT WITH THIS PICTURE.

  • BubbaDuke Jul 24, 8:15 a.m.

    This has been the policy for years. It's not something McCrory instituted.

  • albegadeep Jul 24, 8:12 a.m.

    "More than half the workers put on paid leave were reinstated with no demotion or suspensions." In other words, they were accused but found innocent. So YES, they get paid while they're being investigated!

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