Sangerville selectmen concerned about accuracy of firefighters’ payroll time sheets

Posted May 02, 2012, at 4:25 p.m.
Last modified May 02, 2012, at 6:15 p.m.

SANGERVILLE, Maine — Following a review of Sangerville Fire Department time sheets, selectmen are concerned about how the payroll records are being kept. The board reviewed time sheets from 2010 and 2011 last month and discovered some potential instances of the department double and triple billing for emergency response calls.

The selectmen sent the firemen a letter on April 12 with their quarterly paychecks reminding each member it was his or her responsibility to ensure the time sheets’ accuracy.

The selectmen reviewed the department’s 2010 and 2011 call sheets, training records and Sunday duty payroll sheets in an attempt to track why the payroll has been over budget the past two years. The board found at least three occasions in which the department may have double- and triple-billed for responding to emergency calls.

Town Manager Dave Pearson said the department’s record keeping methods make it difficult to discern whether the firefighters actually overcharged for their services.

“I don’t think the town was overcharged, but the way the payroll is recorded, it’s hard to tell,” Pearson said. “We’d like to tighten up how the records are kept to make it clearer. The letter was sent to make sure the firemen know it’s their responsibility to make sure their individual time sheets are accurate.”

The letter said “the town will not pay for double or triple billing. Sunday duty is set at five hours, and each firefighter is entitled up to 30 hours of training per year. Firefighters who are on Sunday duty may participate in trainings as long as the two don’t run at the same time. In short, the town will not pay you for hours you did not work.”

The board discovered two occurrences where it appeared the town may have been triple-billed. One such occurrence was on July 6, 2011, when the fire department responded to a wires-on-the-road call caused by a fallen tree. The call sheets show that the same 13 firefighters responded to downed trees on the Flanders Hill, Doughty Hill and French’s Mills roads from 6:45 p.m. to 3:30 a.m.

When the selectmen reviewed the time sheet, they had difficulty deciphering whether the firemen were paid once or three times for their efforts. This resulted in the board requesting to meet on April 24 with fire department officers to review the payroll record-keeping procedures.

During the discussion, Fire Chief Chuck Beane and his officers admitted the department needs to do a better job of recording hours on all of the time sheets. Some changes being made to the fire department’s payroll record-keeping methods include using military time to record in and out times on all sheets, requiring firefighters to initial the time sheets to show they concur with record and placing a limit on how many firefighters can respond to downed tree or wires on the road emergency call.

The time sheet review was initiated by Selectman Irving McNaughton and Melissa Randall, who is the wife of Selectman Brent Randall. The two uncovered what they described as payroll irregularities stemming from inaccurate call sheets, training records and Sunday duty logs.

The board reviewed the information brought forth by McNaughton and Randall. The selectmen concluded there was a problem with the department’s payroll record keeping, but it was not done intentionally. The board came to a consensus that the best course of action would be for the fire department to design a better time sheet and for the selectmen to review each one on a monthly basis.

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