Payroll Mix-Up Uncovered in Belmont County Offices

Belmont County commissioners wonder if they can recall two laid off county Department of Job and Family Services caseworkers after DJFS officials told them two drivers on their payroll actually were hired as county Senior Services employees.

The commissioners were forced to lay off nine union positions and six management positions at the county DJFS office earlier this year to reduce $1 million from the agency’s annual budget.

County DJFS officials said the drivers were not showing up on their payroll lists, and County Interim DJFS Director Lisa Fijalkowski said she only recently discovered the drivers were on the DJFS public assistance payroll. They have since been moved to the county Senior Services payroll.

Commissioners Ginny Favede, Charles Probst and Matt Coffland called for county DJFS Fiscal Administrator Vince Gianangeli to provide the commission with more financial information so it could be determined whether two case workers could be recalled to work.

“What we realized … we had two gentlemen who were providing services – they were on the JFS payroll structure, but they weren’t showing up for the cost for Senior Services,” said David Hacker, program director for the county DJFS. “They were providing services to seniors …

“What I can tell you is they are now Senior Service employees, and they will be providing services to seniors under the (Senior Services) levy.”

Fijalkowski added the arrangement saved Senior Services levy dollars as the drivers’ salaries were paid from the DJFS budget. In return, DJFS could be reimbursed through federal funding when the drivers transported Medicaid-eligible patients.

“So they were in DJFS as part of that union, and they were not reflected on lists we were given as part of the layoff?” Favede asked.

Fijalkowksi responded they were not.

“Should they have been laid off in lieu of case managers?” Favede asked.

Fijalkowksi said she had the same question, and she was to speak with a representative of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

“You mean the human services union didn’t protest that – that we were pulling DJFS people to keep Senior Services people?” Probst asked.

The union wasn’t previously aware the drivers were Senior Services employees, according to Fijalkowksi.

Hacker added the employees were Senior Service union members, though they were being paid through the DJFS.

Fijalkowksi estimated about $80,000 in federal money was received by the county DJFS over the past two years as a result of the drivers’ transport of Medicare-eligible patients.

“You didn’t lay them off, yet we have caseworkers who could have been helping the destitute people of the county so we can capitalize and make money off of them?” asked Favede. “Am I missing something?”

Probst asked if there could be an audit finding by the state as a result of the situation, and Hacker said the agency didn’t yet know.