DPW Employee Resigns In Protest Of Alleged Abuse Of Overtime
By: Christopher Kazarian
Robbie G. DiMonda of Hatchville, a 15-year employee of the town, resigned abruptly two Fridays ago, alleging that a colleague in the Department of Public Works, facilities maintenance director Shardell Newton, has long been taking advantage of taxpayer money by not working her full 40-hour work week and then boosting her pay with overtime.
“I can no longer endure the favoritism from this division that enables others to abuse the town,” Ms. DiMonda wrote in her resignation letter to DPW Director Raymond A. Jack two weeks ago. “The ‘overlooking’ of blatant overtime to those who account to no one and pay themselves consistent overtime, has gone beyond abuse of the system.”
Ms. DiMonda, who was hired in 1997 to work in the town’s water department, had most recently served as Mr. Jack’s secretary since he was appointed as the DPW director in October 2006.
Last Monday new personnel director Denise Coleman sent her a letter asking her to expand upon her reasons for resigning and provide details of the fraud she alleged Ms. Newton has committed.
In response, Ms. DiMonda wrote a letter sent last Wednesday that she was concerned that “Mrs. Newton has failed to work a complete work week of 37.4 hours in a very long time. She keeps track of her own attendance, pays herself her desired amount of overtime, accounts to no one and Raymond A. Jack signs the payroll warrant.”
She has since sent a second letter on Friday providing Ms. Coleman with Ms. Newton’s payroll warrants she claims verify her allegations.
Ignoring Repeated Complaints
In a phone interview, Ms. DiMonda said she has long raised these issues to Mr. Jack only to be ignored. “I brought it to his attention many, many times when no one had seen her for weeks and she was paying herself overtime,” she said. “Every time I mentioned this to him, it seemed to annoy him. Finally, I said to him, ‘She is perpetuating fraud against the town of Falmouth.’... He would brush it off. It was almost like it was going in one ear and out the other.”
Every time I mentioned this to [Raymond Jack], it seemed to annoy him. Finally, I said to him, ‘She is perpetuating fraud against the town of Falmouth.’... He would brush it off. It was almost like it was going in one ear and out the other.
Ms. DiMonda said she has also filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office to investigate her claims.
Within the DPW, several employees anonymously confirmed that there is a perception that Ms. Newton is working far less than her 40 hours and was giving herself overtime pay they alleged she did not work.
Earlier this year, the Falmouth Finance Committee raised several questions about Ms. Newton’s overtime, complaining at one meeting that Ms. Newton was not providing enough information to them.
Ms. Newton, who has worked for the town since 1983, has served as the town’s facilities maintenance coordinator since June 1995.
Over the past five years, her salary has increased from $64,145 in 2007 to $78,764 last year. During that time, she has averaged just over $4,275 in additional overtime pay with a high of $7,142 in 2011 and a low of $3,011 in 2010.
Mr. Jack noted, however, that she is permitted overtime in accordance with her union’s collective bargaining agreement. Ms. Newton is a member of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), local 1636. It gives her an automatic four hours of pay if she is called in to respond to a building emergency, attend a meeting beyond her 40 hours of work or open a bathroom on Main Street, just a few examples of the incidents that may require her attention outside of normal business hours.
Of all the department and division heads in AFSCME, which includes administrative staff, custodians, civilian dispatchers, and the Falmouth Department of Natural Resources, acting union president Gary Lutz, who works under Ms. Newton, said she is the only one who receives overtime.
R. Charles Martinsen III, the acting director of the DNR, is not paid overtime, but receives an extra week’s vacation instead. Falmouth Harbor Master Gregg P. Fraser and Town Assessor David A. Bailey, who are also in the AFSCME union, do not receive overtime benefits either.
Entitled To Overtime
Mr. Jack did not begrudge Ms. Newton her right to receive overtime. “She is entitled to it,” he said. “There is nothing wrong with that... Robbie may not think it is fair, but that is Robbie’s opinion.”
Mr. Jack also defended Ms. Newton’s history of overtime, stating that “I haven’t seen anything out of the ordinary with respect to [that].”
As to the allegations of her not putting in a full work week, Mr. Jack said, it is Ms. Newton’s responsibility to enter the number of hours she puts and he signs off on her payroll warrant.
He also stood by Ms. Newton as an employee, saying that “her performance has been very good over the years... She has managed a number of municipal buildings, with the exception of the schools, and done very well.”
We’ve asked Ms. DiMonda to kindly follow our policy to provide us with specific information beyond sweeping allegations with no specificity.
Town Manager Julian Suso
Ms. Newton was troubled by the allegations, pointing out they lack specifics, when interviewed in her office on Wednesday.
Pulling out annual planners dating back to 1995, she went through several in which specific dates were marked with pen and pencil, detailing any time off she has had as well as overtime and the reason for it.
On one day in October 1996, she worked overtime to attend a training class conducted by the American Red Cross. Later that same year, in December, she worked overtime to oversee the cleaning of carpets in a town building.
“They can look at anyone they want to,” Ms. Newton said of these documented planners.
She admitted that she is one of the few in her department that gets overtime, but only a handful on her staff of nine are eligible to do so, which is why hers is usually above those in the facilities maintenance division. “I take care of 26 buildings in town with no assistant and no secretary,” she said. “Every time there’s a storm, I usually get called in. Every time there’s an alarm, I get called in.”
For this calendar year through July 28, Ms. Newton said, she has worked a little over 47 hours of overtime, equaling just under $2,750. In total, she said, that equals about six days of overtime she has worked in the past seven months. “That isn’t even equal to one day a month,” she said. “That doesn’t seem excessive.”
She was concerned that Ms. DiMonda’s allegations could be a “career breaker” for a job she said she enjoys because “it is something different every day.”
As to how the town will handle those allegations, Town Manager Julian M. Suso said, he has put it in the hands of Ms. Coleman in conjunction with town counsel’s office for review.
“We take allegations of fraud very, very seriously,” he said. “We are seeking to have details provided so the town can review what otherwise is lacking in specificity. We need dates and times... We’ve asked Ms. DiMonda to kindly follow our policy to provide us with specific information beyond sweeping allegations with no specificity.”