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Friday, July 13, 2007

Mary, Mary Quite Contrary

Why can't you follow the rules like everybody else?

The Star Tribune has a story about a recently completed audit of the Secretary of State's office. The audit covered the last two years of Flag-wearing Patriot Mary Kiffmeyer's reign over Minnesota elections.

Here's the actual report and response from the Officer of the Legislative Auditor website.

From the Star Tribune story:

The Minnesota legislative auditor alleged Friday that former Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer's administration overpaid 17 employees a total of $190,000 by giving them wages above allowable salary ranges.

In a report covering the final two years of Kiffmeyer's second term, auditors said her staff didn't get proper approval for various personnel transactions. Sixteen new hires were paid up to $11 more per hour than they were entitled. Another was promoted without prior authorization from the Department of Employee Relations and ended up making $11,000 more than his position's rate.

Kiffmeyer, a Republican, lost her re-election bid to Democrat Mark Ritchie, who took over the officer responsible for overseeing elections and business registrations in January.

In a letter responding to the audit, Ritchie said the prior administration believed it retained power over its pay rates. He said he has asked for the Department of Employee Relations to review rate decisions before he takes "appropriate actions.''

Employee Relations Commissioner Patricia Anderson said Friday that her department is trying to determine how to recover the money, a process made harder by the fact that some of the workers are no longer on the state payroll. Only six are still employed by the Secretary of State's office.

"It's significant dollars,'' Anderson said. She added that some of the workers probably would have received authorization for the extra pay had the requests been put through the right channels. "For some it was justified and for some it was not.''

Kiffmeyer didn't immediately return a phone message.

The audit also said Kiffmeyer was overpaid for mileage reimbursements, including some where the public purpose of the travel wasn't clear. The report doesn't say how much was improperly paid out, but said Kiffmeyer should be asked to repay any overages.

Anderson said Ritchie has followed proper procedures of submitting pay rate assignments to her department.

It's not clear when the hires or the promotions in questions were made. The audit didn't specify that information or the names of the employees.

In December, the Department of Employee Relations halted a handful of personnel moves by the outgoing secretary of state's administration designed to provide more job protection to certain workers.

"As your office is in a state of transition and it is only a few short weeks before a new administration takes over, making HR decisions that have the impact of a long-term employment commitment is not permissible,'' read a memo from the department to Kiffmeyer and a top aide.

The memo about the job classifications was not part of Friday's audit.

If you read the entire PDF file, you get more of the details on the mileage reimbursement issue. There are hilarious comments about Little Mary getting reimbursed for mileage betweeen her home (in Big Lake) and various metro area destinations, vs. counting the mileage between the actual office and the state fairgrounds, to use just one example.