CSU Fresno Groundskeepers Cost Taxpayers $111K by Getting Paid to Leave Work Early, Take Long Breaks: State Audit

Two longtime employees at Cal State Fresno were found to have cost California $111,000 by falsely reporting hours while they took long breaks and went home early, according to the results of a state audit released Tuesday.

The two groundskeepers inaccurately reported more than 5,000 hours of work at the campus from 2013 to 2017, according to the California State Auditor's Office report.

Both employees, whose names were not made public, were able to eke out extra pay by leaving work early and taking longer breaks away from campus without clocking out, officials said.

Witnesses allege that one of the employees would sit in his car or in other campus buildings during the workday, while the other would arrive late or leave early with relatives. Whistleblowers also complained of having to complete the employees’ missed assignments on their behalves.

A probe into the reported allegations included three days of surveillance. During that time, the groundskeepers were observed missing between three and seven hours of work each day, confirming whistleblower accusations, investigators said.

Following the investigation, Fresno State suspended the employees for 12 weeks without pay, the report said. The university is allegedly considering legal options in order to recover the lost funds.

Officials also found that managers at the school contributed to the misuse of funds by failing to properly monitor the staff. The report notes the state is "concerned" reprimanding the employees alone may not remedy the situation.

A campus manager's actions at another state university, Cal State Dominguez Hills, were also probed by the auditor's office. That case involved the person's decision to purchase a quick charger for electric vehicles at the university.

Purchased in March 2013 for $6,840, it turned out the manager had not researched whether the charger was compatible with the campus' energy resource plan, and it has sat unused since, officials found. At last check, the product would not be installed before 2020, if at all.

The investigation found that the manager’s hasty decision to purchase the more expensive quick charger failed to take into account that it would cost $100,000 to install. Then in April 2015, the school spent $142,000 to install six standard chargers.

The quick charger is only compatible with three different cars in the country, according to the report. The more cost-efficient option of a standard charging station works with many more vehicles, but can take more than double the time to charge.

The university stood by the decision to purchase the quick charger, even though it remains unused even five years after its purchase, the auditor said.

Five other investigations prompted by the office of the state auditor at different state agencies, including two university campuses, look into other employees who improperly used state time and property in “economically wasteful activities” amounting to approximately $200,000 in inappropriate spending.

KTLA's Erika Martin contributed to this report.