9 Investigates unearned time off at Port Orange public utilities



PORT ORANGE, Fla. - 9 Investigates has uncovered more mismanagement of money by Port Orange leaders.

City officials have been under fire since last fall, when a major water-billing mistake was discovered.

An audit shows that the public utilities director gave his employees and himself lots of paid time off they didn't deserve.

Channel 9's Lori Brown has learned that all of that time off could cost the public as much as $280,000.

"It wasn't just hours, it was days and weeks," said Port Orange Mayor Allen Green.

According to documents, some employees received as much as 128 extra hours of time off. That was time off they had not earned.

Records show that one employee received more than 80 hours a year for seven years in a row.

The audit determined that the total cost to the public from 2001 to 2012 was somewhere between $243,000 and $283,000 over 12 years.

"What is your reaction when you saw that total there of how much this cost?" Brown asked the mayor.

"You told me I shouldn't use profanity," Green said. "It's ridiculous. You want to believe people."

Public Utilities Director Roger Smith authorized all of the time off, without the city manager's approval.

Green was informed of the time off by a whistleblower. The mayor said he contacted then-City Manager Ken Parker.

"He assigned it to the assistant city manager, who did in fact look at it, but probably didn't go deep enough into it," said Green.

Parker later resigned amid a costly water-billing fiasco.

The new city manager requested an audit.

According to the audit, the public utilities director also gave himself plenty of paid time off. His leave added up to more than $28,000 over 10 years. One year, he took off 104 hours he was not entitled to get.

"Was this stealing from the city?" Brown asked.

"In my opinion?" said Green. "If it's not, it's so damn close it's scary."

Port Orange resident Pete Heritch said he is frustrated.

"You catch them with their hand in the cookie jar and what happens? They get a slap," said Heritch.

The City Council is expected to discuss the audit Tuesday night, and will decide whether the matter should be referred to the state attorney.