Two of the state’s biggest time-wasters work at Fresno State, report finds

Fresno State is ranked among the nation’s top schools according to MONEY Magazine.
Fresno State is ranked among the nation’s top schools according to MONEY Magazine. FRESNO BEE FILE

Two Fresno State employees routinely left campus to go home and go shopping during their shifts, costing the university more than $111,000 in salary for work not done, according to a report by the California State Auditor.

The twice-yearly review of improper activities by public employees highlighted the two university groundskeepers as particularly egregious examples of time wasters in the California State University system.

Over five years, employees A and B “failed to account for more than 5,100 hours of work,” and then lied when confronted with evidence that they left the campus during the day, the report says.

After receiving complaints about the two employees, the university began its surveillance of their whereabouts. An investigator found that Employee A would arrive on campus, but then sit in his car for an hour or more at a time. He also left during the day to go home, and when confronted with evidence of his absence, said he could not recall whether he had left the campus.

The report estimates he missed more than 2,100 hours of work and cost the state more than $45,000 from 2013-2017.

Employee B showed up to work more than five hours late one day, and then left the campus to visit four stores, according to observations included in the report. She initially denied having ever left campus, but admitted to visiting one store on her lunch break. The report put her missed time at 3,000 hours, costing the state $66,000.

An infographic from the State Auditor showing how employees A and B spent their day.

In the time they were off campus, both employees failed to finish mowing their assigned areas, instead leaving the work to be done by their colleagues, the report found.

Witnesses also said Employee A tried to drive his mower for a longer distance than necessary in order to add time to its meter, making it look like he worked longer than he actually did.

The report faulted Fresno State for not providing enough supervision for these employees, who were the only groundskeepers who reported directly to a supervisor instead of a middle manager.

However, the university said the employees were ultimately responsible for their behavior.

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The report recommended that Fresno State take steps to correct the situation, including disciplining the two employees and investigating a relative of Employee B, who also works at the university and was observed leaving the campus with her.

Another recommendation advised Fresno State to “determine the amount of time Employees A and B can be charged to account for their missed work hours, reduce their leave balances accordingly, and, if applicable, seek to recover from them any wages paid to them for time they did not work.”

University spokeswoman Lisa Boyles said the university placed the two groundskeepers on a 12-week unpaid suspension after receiving the report. Additionally, they now have more supervision.

“The employees know that management is closely reviewing and scrutinizing their daily attendance to ensure no further time and attendance abuse occurs,” Boyles said. “In addition, a strong message has been communicated to the employees involved and the entire department that this type of behavior is not acceptable and does not represent the values of Fresno State nor what we expect from any our Fresno State employees.”

The report says this step, along with placing the employees on the same schedule as other groundskeepers, may not be enough.

“We are concerned that these steps may not fully resolve their time and attendance abuse,” the report says. “These two employees engaged in time and attendance abuse even during times when they reported to a lead employee.”

Aleksandra Appleton, @aleksappleton, 559-341-3747