Local News

Audit: State Fairgrounds official received 'excessive' overtime pay

Posted July 21, 2011 11:12 a.m. EDT
Updated July 21, 2011 12:25 p.m. EDT

— The sales director for the North Carolina State Fairgrounds racked up "excessive and unjustified" overtime in recent years, and fair officials failed to address the situation, according to a state audit released Thursday.

In response to the audit, Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, who oversees the fairgrounds operations, said the sales director position has been reclassified so that it no longer qualifies for overtime pay.

Auditors found that Claudine Davis earned anywhere from $14,700 to $23,100 in overtime between 2007 and last year. She told auditors that she sometimes has to meet after hours with people looking to lease fairgrounds buildings.

After Davis compiled 715 overtime hours in 2007, fairgrounds officials hired a temporary worker to help with sales, but Davis' overtime dropped by less than 40 percent in subsequent years, according to the audit.

The audit didn't include the hours Davis worked in October in its analysis because all fairgrounds employees put in extra hours during the annual North Carolina State Fair.

State Fair Manager Wesley Wyatt told auditors that he was "generally unaware" of what Davis was working on outside of normal business hours, and the audit questioned why the department would continue to pay her overtime.

Hiring the temp effectively increased the amount the fairgrounds was spending on sales by about 23 percent because Davis' overtime was never eliminated, according to the audit.

"Management’s insufficient monitoring of overtime hours allowed the facility sales director to accumulate excessive overtime and generate additional compensation," the audit states. "The addition of the temporary employee has not proven to be an effective approach to eliminating excessive overtime."

Troxler said in his response to the suit that the State Fairgrounds is understaffed in sales and marketing when compared with its primary competitor for events, the Raleigh Convention Center. He said any additional staffing would need to generate enough revenue to offset the expense.

The audit said the State Fairgrounds needs to perform "a comprehensive evaluation of the facility sales director's work habits and relative efficiency" before arguing that more staff is needed. Auditors cited a 2006 internal study by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services that noted "poor time management skills and work habits by employees and relaxed work oversight by supervisors" as a reason for a high rate of overtime throughout the department.