Was out-going city official illegally granted $400,000 worth of sick time?

Posted at 12:01 PM, May 19, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-19 18:03:56-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) -- Out-going Richmond Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO) Sharon Judkins was given more than $400,000 on her way out the door thanks to some unusual bookkeeping, according to a report filed by Richmond City Auditor Umesh Dalal.

Judkins last day at work was Friday, according to Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones' spokeswoman Tammy Hawley.

Judkins, who helped oversee Richmond's IT department, was the subject of a 2013 CBS 6 investigation after she came out against each and every recommendation the city auditor made after his review of the Richmond Department of Information Technology RAPIDS system.

Dalal said his most recent investigation into Judkins uncovered Richmond Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Byron Marshall allowed Judkins to get credit for more than 800 hours of unused sick time she collected during a previous 19-year career in the city of Richmond. Judkins returned to City Hall when Marshall hired her in 2012.

Judkins and Marshall met while serving together on the same board of a professional organization, Dalal noted. He found it was highly irregular for the city to give an employee credit for past time spent in between city jobs.

"Restoring unused sick leave from prior employment appears to be a unique transaction, which the CAO entered into for the sole benefit of the DCAO," Dalal wrote in his report. "In addition, the transaction does not comply with the City’s Code of Ethics."

Dalal said he recommended the Mayor's Office work with the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office to determine what, if any, laws had been broken.

In addition to the unused sick time, Dalal found Judkins was credited for an additional 147.2 hours of vacation time on a single day, February 28, 2014.

"Further investigation revealed that this adjustment was done erroneously by an untrained Finance Department employee who was not supervised appropriately," Dalal wrote. "The City Controller to whom this employee reported to did not review or verify the accuracy of this adjustment. The Finance employee’s error accrued additional vacation benefit to the DCAO valued at $11,766. This error must be reversed."

However, Marshall now says his recent decision to grant Judkins's unused sick time was a mistake.

The auditor's report questions Marshall’s recent decision to compensate Judkins for more than eight hundred hours of unused sick leave.

That time was accumulated during a previous stint working with the city, not the job she has had since being re-hired in 2012.

“She should have given it back. It wasn’t right for taxpayers for her to get all that sick time, knowing she's not there anymore," concerned taxpayer Ralph Green told CBS 6 News.

Marshall was not at City Hall Monday, so CBS 6 News took our questions to the mayor’s office. Spokesperson Tammy Hawley said that Marshall has addressed the auditor’s concerns in a recent letter.

CBS 6 News obtained a copy of that letter. Hawley says Marshall has since recommended not paying Judkins for those 800 sick hours. The letter outlines his reasons. He says the hours were granted in error. Marshall also explains that his decision to approve the sick hours was based upon flawed advice given to him by the city’s Human Resources department.

Mayor Dwight Jones, concerned about the auditor’s report, is now putting the matter in the hands of Commonwealth’s Attorney Mike Herring. Jones wants Herring to determine if there was any criminal wrongdoing.

"We do want to be good stewards of tax dollars. We want to have the matter thoroughly examined. Certainly Mayor Jones feels that anyone who knowingly engages in wrong doing should be held accountable," Hawley said. "Out of an abundance of caution we would have all levels of review deemed necessary and the auditor suggests we forward this to the Commonwealth Attorney for review. We feel that is an appropriate action."

CBS 6 News reached out to Judkins at her home Monday and received no response. We also contacted Mike Herring, but he said it’s too early in the process to determine if there is any criminal wrongdoing.

Stay with CBS 6 News for the latest developments in this story.