In the heart of downtown Montpelier, Vermont Department of Human Resources staff investigate whenever there's a suspicion of wrongdoing by one of Vermont's 8,000 employees.
"Most state employees are terrific, but we have a lot of employees, and some aren't. And so we investigate many things. Time sheet fraud is one thing we investigate because if it is fraud, it's stealing," said Steve Collier, General Counsel.
Prosecutors revealed one of the state's largest such thefts when they charged now-former state trooper Jim Deeghan in July 2012. By padding his time sheet and fabricating traffic ticket, he bilked taxpayers out of more than $200,000 over six years.
"What Deeghan did, in my experience, is unprecedented in this state. There's nothing that comes close to approaching the level of fraud," Collier said.
A new digital payroll system allows managers more time sheet oversight. The Deeghan case led lawmakers to pass a bill allowing the state to recover funds by confiscating pensions of convicted employees.
Administration investigators have opened 21 cases since charging Deeghan.
"That's a lot more than I would like to see, but I'm also encouraged people are aware and reporting it and of these 21 cases, I'm sure many of them will be nothing," Collier said.
Miscommunication and human error lead to most complaints. Four cases have been referred to police who will conduct independent investigations, but those possible crooks are relatively small-time monetarily.
"Any kind of fraud, any level of fraud at all is completely intolerable and unacceptable," Collier said. "Sounds like thousands might be the higher end? I don't know if there's one that's that much."
But spokespeople say it's the conduct and intent-- not dollars-- that are most important in their investigations. Early detection prevents the possibility of thefts like Deeghan's.
We reached out to the Vermont State Employees Association regarding this story and were told they don't comment on ongoing investigations.
It's unclear if the number of cases is high or not, because the office which looks into allegations is only about 3 years old.
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