Boy, Fresno State must be a cush place to work.
I use that word (“work”) loosely. Looser than the tongue of the town gossip. Looser than a kite in a windstorm. Looser than your favorite jeans after a carb-free month.
If you or I showed up hours late to our place of employment, then sat idly in our car or bailed to go shopping, all while on the clock, it wouldn’t be long before we were summoned to the boss’ office. The shelf life for such shenanigans would expire awfully quick.
At Fresno State, two groundskeepers, one male and one female, got away with this stuff for years and years and years. Five to be exact. Together they cost the university more than $111,000 in salary for work they didn’t actually do.
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After reading the California State Auditor’s findings, I’m left with two questions:
● Who was supervising these groundskeepers? Rip Van Winkle?
● What, exactly, does it take to get fired at Fresno State?
The first question is facetious. The second is serious. I’d honestly like to know. Because if you can get away with bilking your employer (and California taxpayers) for thousands of hours and still keep your job, you can get away with pretty much anything.
Same goes for professors who post hate-filled tweets about recently deceased first ladies that usher in a conflagration of uproar and ill-feelings.
Randa Jarrar gets to keep her job, too.
The only person who doesn’t, it seems, is an athletic director whose personal demons affected his job performance and was allegedly the victim of “a whisper campaign” designed to usher him out the door. (Good to see Jim Bartko resurface at Oregon as a university fundraiser.)
Our favorite groundskeepers each served 12-week unpaid suspensions but are back on the job – presumably – mowing lawns and pruning hedges. Just with a tad more supervision, one would hope.
Why are they still employed? I asked Debbie Adishian-Astone, Fresno State’s vice president for administration, that very question via email.
Adishian-Astone was courteous enough to provide an answer, one that stuck to the script. The groundskeepers are public employees, their privacy rights are protected by state law. And disciplinary matters between the university and the employees’ union are dictated by collective bargaining.
“This is obviously a very disappointing situation and it has been communicated within the entire department that this behavior is not acceptable from any of our employees,” Adishian-Astone said.
Not acceptable, but clearly tolerated to some degree. Even when confronted with evidence corroborating their time and attendance abuses, the two denied, concealed and misled according to the report.
Terry Wilson, chapter president of the California State University Employees Union, took a similar tact. Did the union dispute the audit’s findings? He wouldn’t say.
“At this point in time, CSUEU does not have any other comments,” Wilson replied via email.
This is one of those situations where everyone looks bad. Fresno State gets a black eye for furnishing a lax workplace environment where scammers go unchecked, as does the union for protecting two employees who clearly deserve to be jettisoned.
And you wonder why state employees being lazy and unsupervised is a stereotype.
It’s unfair to all the hard-working people employed by the university, of which there are many. In particular, their fellow groundskeepers who have spent years covering for two co-workers’ lack of scruples.
Bet that’s an uncomfortable talk around the water cooler.
While Fresno State insists management is “closely reviewing and scrutinizing” the daily attendance of its employees to “ensure no further time and attendance abuse occurs,” I question whether anyone will get the message.
That’s the unavoidable consequence when two of the state’s biggest time-wasters bilk taxpayers for six figures, lie about their actions and are allowed to keep their jobs.
Marek Warszawski: 559-441-6218, @MarekTheBee