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City workers fudged timecards, got them approved

Posted: 4:26 PM, Aug 30, 2018
Updated: 2018-08-31 00:21:25Z

City of San Diego workers on the taxpayer dime were doubling the hours worked on their timecards and getting paid for it anyway. 

The revelation is part of a damaging new audit set to be released Friday. 

"Quite frankly, we're appalled," Johnnie Perkins, a city deputy chief operating officer, said in a press conference called Thursday. 

The audit found the a unit of 17 workers in a unit of public utilities department were working an average 3.6 hours per day, but putting eight hours on their timecards - and supervisors were approving them. The unit is charged with replacing faulty cement water meter covers and water meter boxes at homes and business across the city of San Diego. 

"We need to make sure that we're changing what our expectations are not just for those that are on the front line repairing our lids and boxes," Perkins said, "but for our midlevel and senior managers, what do we expect in terms of how they are going to be evaluated or held accountable for their performance, or in this case, lack thereof?"

The investigation comes just months after City Auditor Eduardo Luna's department found that the public utilities department sent erroneously high water bills to nearly 3,000 San Diego families. Perkins said reforms are currently being installed. 

The announcement came one day after city public utilities director Vic Bianes announced his retirement, effective Thursday. Matt Vespi, an assistant director in the finance department, takes over on an interim basis.

The city plans to have a permanent replacement by the end of the year.   

In a statement, Mayor Kevin Faulconer said the public utilities department needs to earn back the trust of its customers.

"The Mayor has called for sweeping reforms that include looking into every aspect of the department’s operations and changing how things are done to better serve the public," he said. 

In the case of the inflated timecards, Perkins declined to say how much was lost, what the workers earned, and exactly how long it was going on. He promised taxpayers that despite the troubles, the water supply is safe, and that the city would get to the bottom of it. 

"We own this," he said. "If there's an issue we're going to own it, and we're going to be held accountable because it's the ratepayers and the taxpayers of San Diego who we work for, and we cannot forget that."