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City of Minden auditing payroll records

by Minden Press-Herald

City officials say an internal audit is underway for all city employees’ payroll records.

The audit comes on the heels of six police officers being over paid and left owing the city.

“We’re investigating everyone’s pay to make sure it is being done correctly,” Minden Mayor Tommy Davis said. “We’re going back 10 years and it will take some time to make sure all the I’s are dotted and T’s are crossed.”

City Clerk Michael Fluhr – who oversees the payroll for all 210 city employees – will head up the audit, Davis said.

He says the city has opted to keep the audit in-house rather than have an external auditor review the records.

“We have capable people at city hall that can do this,” he said. “I have complete confidence that when we get through, it will be corrected.”

Problems came to light after the officers received a higher pay raise when they received promotions.

Five of the six officers’ errors were caught months after the raises went into effect.

Fluhr, who denied a public records request for the documents in reference to how much officers had to pay back, said in a meeting that Officer First Class Chris Hammontree, Officer First Class Ben Allen, Officer First Class Kenny James and former officers Justin Kemp and Bryan King repaid around $450 each.

The sixth officer, Sgt. Ryan Barnette’s error was not caught for three years leaving him owing nearly $9,500.

He addressed the Minden City Council at the November meeting, making members of the council and public aware of the problem.

“In January of 2012, I received a promotion from the position of Officer First Class to Sergeant. At that time, I received a pay increase – which I believed to be the appropriate pay increase for the promotion,” he said at the meeting. “Three years later, I was informed there was an error in the payroll department and I owed the city almost $9,500.”

During the meeting, Barnette said Davis informed him earlier this year that he had been receiving $100 too much in each paycheck since the promotion.

In an effort to correct the oversight; he said his monthly pay was cut by $200 and the city asked him to pay back $75 a month for the next five years.

He told the council he would not voluntarily allow the city to deduct money they say he owes from his paycheck.

“You’ll have to sue me and you will have to use taxpayers dollars to do it,” he said at the time. “You’re going to have to fight for it.”

Fluhr referred all questions to the law office of Gold, Weems, Bruser, Sues & Rundell in Alexandria in an email at the time, but Davis says the city is not currently retaining the law office for the matter.

Davis said in an interview Wednesday that Barnette’s case was still ongoing and would not know the outcome until the audit is over.

A public records request for current police officers pay information revealed that Barnette also received the two percent longevity raise a year early.

City policy is for employees to receive the 2 percent on the fourth year of consecutive employment. Barnette received his on the third year, Fluhr said.

To correct the error, he said the raise was skipped the following year.

Davis said he chose not to terminate the payroll clerk following the errors saying everyone makes mistakes.

“There were a lot of mistakes made and it has been addressed with the payroll clerk,” he said. “If you dismiss everyone that makes a mistake, you soon wouldn’t have any employees.”

Fluhr explained that previously, the two payroll clerks checked each other’s work. To help prevent future errors, he will also be checking over it.

He expects the audit to be complete by January.

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