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Hauppauge schools didn’t get heads up on OT work, audit states

Hauppauge school officials have vowed to stop what a new state report blasts as widespread collection of thousands of dollars in overtime pay by workers who failed to obtain advance approval by supervisors, as required by district rules.

The district’s pledge followed a report released Tuesday from the office of state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, detailing the extent to which school workers obtained payments for overtime that might have been unnecessary.

State auditors checked payments made over four weeks to 13 employees receiving the largest amounts of overtime. The probe determined that none of the work had been authorized in advance as required by district rules.

The auditors found that one security guard, Stephen Phelan, worked 33.5 overtime hours within a four-week period and received an extra $1,143 for monitoring security cameras. Newsday, in a call to Phelan’s Hauppauge residence, was told by a person identifying herself as a family member that he was not home and would not be interviewed.

State auditors noted that if overtime had been approved in advance, the district might have been alerted to rearrange employees’ schedules so that work could be done within regular hours. Hauppauge’s union contracts, like those in many districts, provide time-and-one-half pay for extra work done Mondays through Saturdays, and double pay for extra work on Sundays.

“District officials are not properly monitoring employee overtime to ensure that the district is incurring only necessary overtime costs,” the report stated.

Hauppauge’s deputy school superintendent, James Stucchio, responded by pledging to stop the district’s approval of overtime after work had been completed — a practice he acknowledged was common. The deputy said the district would start requiring department supervisors to authorize such compensation in advance.

Stucchio added that this would protect against unauthorized extra work and allow for “the possible rearranging of shifts to lower or eliminate the need for the overtime.”

Hauppauge operates five schools with about 3,900 students and 645 full- or part-time workers. The district’s budget for the 2015-16 school year was $105 million.

The comptroller’s report found that district payroll instructions required workers to obtain approval before working overtime, but that the instructions often went unheeded.

The audit covered district operations from July 1, 2014 through Aug. 31, 2015. During that time, the report found, Hauppauge paid $470,355 in overtime, with 77 percent of the money going to workers in either the security office or the Buildings and Grounds Department.

Stucchio acknowledged that much of the overtime pay was for monitoring of security cameras in the district’s “video room.” Stucchio said the district would review staff schedules to see if monitoring could be handled within regular hours.

If not, he added, the district would do an analysis to see if the extra work could be done less expensively by part-time staff.

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