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FOX10 News Investigates

Mobile fires city employee accused of falsifying time cards

Tyrone Holley (FOX10 News) Tyrone Holley (FOX10 News)
MOBILE, AL (WALA) -

Update : A city spokesperson told FOX10 News Investigates Holley was served a “letter of dismissal” Wednesday, March 7. 


According to officials, both the city of Mobile and the Mobile County District Attorney’s Office are investigating a recently fired municipal garage employee on allegations he may have stolen city money by falsifying time cards. 

Several people are accusing the employee of saying he was at work at the garage when he was allegedly clocking in at a second job. 

So FOX10 News Investigates worked to get to the bottom of the issue and uncover what may have happened. 

Investigative Reporter Kati Weis analyzed two years of time card documentation and sought to discover how time is kept across all city departments. 

In the process, she uncovered a potentially bigger problem with city-wide timekeeping practices. 

City employee develops bonus program of his own?

That’s the first question FOX10 News Investigates set out to answer, after receiving a tip about the alleged activity. 

In 2014, Mayor Sandy Stimpson recognized city garage employees as part of his "Pay-it-Forward” Bonus Program. 

Garage employees built a cost-efficient trailer to haul barricades, which saved the city $6,000. 

In turn, each employee was awarded a $250 bonus for their effort. 

However, one of the employees honored, Tyrone Holley, is now being accused of ripping off the city by falsifying his time cards.

Both the city and the D.A.’s Office are investigating those allegations, and Holley said he was put on paid administrative leave two weeks ago.

A city spokesperson told FOX10 News Investigates Holley was served a “letter of dismissal” Wednesday, March 7. 

During the time he was employed at the garage, Holley used to also work a second job for a shipping company, tying ships up to docks when they came into the port of Mobile. 

Time card records show Holley may have been working that second job when he was punched in as working at the garage.

A former coworker at the shipping company, who wanted to remain anonymous, said it was no secret.

"He would talk about how either he would clock people in, or the whole crew in, when he got to work, or have somebody else on a different day be the one to clock everybody in that morning,” said the whistleblower. “It was kind of a joke that Tyrone was a master of being in two places at once, and we all wished we could figure out his secret.”

FOX10 News Investigates dug through two years of paper time cards kept at the city garage, and two years of time sheets at the shipping company, given to FOX10 News Investigates by Holley's former boss. 

FOX10 News Investigates verified the accuracy of the time sheets from the second job through harbormaster records, which confirm the ships Holley said he was working on, were at the port on the days listed on the sheets. 

Holley's former boss also gave FOX10 News Investigates copies of emails from Holley's own wife, who sent time verifications to the shipping company. 

For several days, FOX10 News Investigates lined up the two sets of time cards.

From July 2015 to June 2017, about 113 hours overlap, where Holley's city time cards were stamped saying he was at work, but time cards at his other job show he was docking ships instead. 

But, Holley denies any wrongdoing. 

“I don't have to be at the job (at the docks), all I got to do is set it up, I don't have to physically be there, and if I know something is going on, I call (my wife and) she sets up the job, and that's the way it was. I don't have to be there, I don't have to go at all, I never had to go, I only go just to get out of the house,” Holley explained. 

FOX10 News Investigates asked him if sometimes he was paid at his job at the docks when he wasn’t there, to which Holley responded, “yeah."

Old-school system causing problems?

Holley's time cards at the garage were old-school, paper cards, which had to be punched manually.

So, FOX10 News wanted to see how time is kept across all city departments, how are employees submitting their hours in different departments?

Turns out, it depends. 

FOX10 News Investigates found different departments in the city track employee time differently. 

Some departments, like Mobile Fire Rescue, submit time digitally.

But others, like the Police Department and the Azalea City Golf course, use paper time sheets.

With these issues in mind, there's room to wonder, could this record-keeping lead to employees taking advantage of the system?

Mobile’s Finance Director and Mayor’s Chief of Staff, Paul Wesch, admitted outdated timekeeping could lead to employees punching each other’s cards more easily. 

“Technology has brought us various forms of timekeeping, whether they're thumbprint or retinal, proof of you being the one who actually clocks in your time, those are some things we'll have to look at,” he said. 

FOX10 News Investigates reached out to a few other local governments in the state to see how their employees submit time. 

So far, only Mobile County has responded, which said it just switched over to an all-digital timekeeping system in 2018. 

The county went on to say 309 of its employees are now submitting time digitally. 

Back in the city, Wesch said leaders are working towards a solution. 

"Well, we are certainly aware of the fact that we've had this investigation dust-up, our legal department and the mayor are looking at a way forward, a way to do things better, and we will continue looking at that,” said Wesch.

The Stimpson administration also released this written statement about the investigation, which reads in full: 

"The city of Mobile has a zero-tolerance policy regarding fraud, waste or abuse of the taxpayers' dollars. We investigate every allegation of wrongdoing thoroughly and objectively. In this case, the city was made aware of the complaint regarding one of its employees and took immediate action. Following the completion of the internal investigation, the case will be turned over to the District Attorney's Office if the findings are criminal. Both City employees and private citizens are encouraged to report any incidents of illegal or wasteful activity. The City maintains a fraud hotline where complaints may be reported anonymously. That number is 800-957-3676.”

Investigation into false time cards closed last fall, reopened in January

According to sources, the allegations were first reported to the city's fraud hotline back in July, and a committee within the Public Services Department took to investigating its own employee. 

Holley said after that investigation was complete, he appeared before a trial board last fall and was vindicated of any wrongdoing. 

"I had to go through these formalities, and I had to sit with four people, and they went over everything that they had, well they had no evidence number one, been there 25 years, I'm a model employee, they've had no issues, no problems with me,” said Holley. “I mean anybody can write on a piece of paper, and say I was here or I was there."

But, the city said "officials found evidence of false testimony" from that personnel hearing. 

Officials did not say who previously gave that false testimony. 

A city spokesperson also said, holding personnel hearings is "no longer city protocol and the public works supervisors were retrained on proper procedures."

FOX10 News Investigates has since learned the investigation has been reopened, according to sources, by the city's Chief Municipal Court Administrator Nathan Emmorey, who sources said has turned the case over to the District Attorney's Office.  

Emmorey did not return calls for comment, and District Attorney Ashley Rich said: “it is an ongoing investigation, so I cannot comment.”

Laura Byrne, a city spokesperson, did say the new investigation is looking into the "false testimony" given before. 

Late Wednesday evening, Byrne also told FOX10 News Investigates Holley was terminated because he was “found guilty of lying during the investigation.”

Byrne would not clarify as to what, specifically, Holley allegedly lied about. 
 
Meanwhile, Holley's former coworker is hoping city leaders will take a serious look at how all employees are submitting their time. 

"Yeah, it's bothersome to think that I'm funding somebody's duplicitous shenanigans,” he said. “It's highly concerning, it makes me wonder if this isn't happening in other places, you know, other avenues in the city?"

The city said it is beginning to make some timekeeping changes. 

A city spokesperson said, "public works purchased new software to enhance timekeeping within the department."

The software was purchased in November, according to the spokesperson, and will “take a photo every time an employee clocks in.”

No word yet on when it will go into effect. 

FOX10 News Investigates will keep you updated as the case, and timekeeping changes in the city, move forward. 
 

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