On WPRI Eyewitness News (channel 12), Tim White nabs another public employee whose workday appears to involve strange behavior. This time, it’s a weatherization specialist parking his government vehicle behind his house for much of the day and moving it around to his driveway when his shift is over.
Out of curiosity, I looked the employee, Dennis Lopes, up on the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s RIOpenGov site. It’s important to emphasize that this data does not overlap with White’s investigation chronologically, so there’s no evidence that Lopes’s practices aren’t recent developments.
That said, in both 2010 and 2011, the only Dennis Lopes listed on the payroll managed to enhance his regular pay by about 4% with payments that the state categorizes as overtime. In 2010, he added $2,059 to a base of $50,086; in 2011, he added $2,003 to $51,482.
It’s interesting to note that the only other person listed in the same division, John Costello, who has the same job title, had no overtime during either year. That division is HHS/Weatherization. There’s also a DOE/Weatherization division listed, and the only employee in it, Julie Capobianco, had no overtime either. (Although, her job title is different.)
The most important part of the WPRI report, however, is this:
The Weatherization Assistance Program is funded through federal tax dollars and a surcharge on National Grid bills.
In 2009, the program saw a massive influx of money from the federal stimulus program, money targeted at weatherizing 2,500 homes for Rhode Island’s needy families. In all the state received $20.1 million in stimulus money, according to data from the Dept. of Energy.
In 2012, the program received $4.2 million in federal money, according to Anthes, and $2.7 million from National Grid.
In its multiple stories on the high overtime pay of employees in various job categories in the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH), the Ocean State Current found a similar thread. (See here for the latest, with links to prior stories.) When federal money flows in as a funding source, along with other non-state funding, in order to accomplish a charitable or trendy goal, it appears that the incentive to keep an eye on costs is weakened from what it ought to be. White’s report suggests that, in some cases, the incentive may not even be enough to check whether work is actually being done.
In those stories about federal stimulus programs that rapidly faded from public memory, many people wondered where all money went. In response to waste and fraud investigations into social service programs, many people wonder where all that money goes.
We’re gradually finding out.