Workers Disciplined After GPS Tracks Work Day
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — One state worker resigned and two others took a cut in pay after a state agency tracked their movements with GPS devices and found they were shaving hours from their work day.
State Alcohol and Tobacco Control Commissioner Troy Hebert tells The Advocate he installed Global Positioning System devices on agents' vehicles and discovered some were taking extended lunch breaks, reporting to work late, leaving early and sometimes not coming to work at all.
"You're always going to have a couple of bad apples," Hebert said. "I don't think it's widespread. I think it's contained to a handful of agents."
Hebert accepted the resignation of one agent, he said, and demoted two other agents after looking at GPS reports on their movements.
He refused to identify the agents, but said prosecutors are looking at their conduct to determine whether it rose to the level of payroll fraud.
State Inspector General Stephen Street said he is not involved in the investigation.
Hebert said the demotions will include a cut in pay.
Hebert's office oversees the regulation of alcoholic beverage and tobacco industries. Agents regularly monitor the state's bars and restaurants.
In 2011, Hebert announced plans to eliminate six positions, including one held by the son of a state senator. To save money, he installed a time clock and stopped the practice of paying employees during their commute to work.
Agents were spending four days a week in the office when he became commissioner, Hebert said. He said he wanted them out in the field investigating bars and restaurants.
Because agents work across the state, Hebert said it was difficult for him to monitor their work days.
GPS devices were installed on agents' vehicles about a year ago, he said.
Agents knew about the devices, which tracked their movements and locations, Hebert said.
The tracking information showed agents leaving home late and going home early, he said. One agent, Hebert said, did not report to work at all on Wednesdays.
Hebert said he sat down with agents after looking at the GPS readouts.
Some, he said, had plausible excuses. For example, some agents explained they rode with another agent to work a detail, leaving their vehicles at home.
Hebert said other excuses were not as plausible.
At least one agent claimed to be monitoring a police scanner at home when he was not on the road, Hebert said.
So far, action has been taken against three of the office's approximately 40 agents. Hebert said more punishments could be coming as his investigation continues.
Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com