Audit faults Wash. juvenile detention facility on overtime pay

Staff overtime and operating costs at the Clark County Juvenile Detention Facility have risen even as the population of detainees has decreased


By Jake Thomas
The Columbian, Vancouver, Wash.

VANCOUVER, Wash. — Staff overtime and operating costs at the Clark County Juvenile Detention Facility have risen even as the population of detainees has decreased.

That’s a central conclusion of a recent performance audit conducted by a team in the county auditor’s office. Focusing on a period between 2013 and 2015, the audit found that the facility’s management didn’t consistently collect and use data to determine staffing. The audit states that as a result, it “did not maintain stable juvenile detention officer staffing levels causing it to exceed its adopted budget.”

“Staffing decisions with significant financial impact were made with a minimum of performance data,” reads the audit. “Management attempted to address the increasingly severe staffing shortage with overtime even as they phased out the use of temporary staff.”

The audit was presented at a meeting of the Clark County Audit Oversight Committee on Tuesday afternoon. Tom Nosack, a performance auditor, said that the audit was prompted after county staff noticed significant increases in the use of overtime at the facility.

Numbers included in the audit show the annual use of overtime hours increased from about 3,000 in 2007 to about 10,000 in 2015. During this time period, the average number of detainees decreased from 58 to 21. Staff stayed relatively constant, with 33 detention officers working at the facility full-time in 2007, which dropped slightly to 29 in 2015.

“By all standards, the number of juveniles in detention are going down, we’d expect the number of (full-time employees) to maintain them to go down and the amount of overtime to go down similarly, and they didn’t,” Nosack said at the meeting.

The availability of juvenile detention officers for scheduled work decreased between 2011 and 2014 because staff increasingly used scheduled leave and protected time off, according to the audit. As a result, there were fewer employees available and management increasingly relied on the costlier options of staff overtime or compensatory time.

The audit states that management relied most heavily on these options in 2013 when 1,426 hours of comp time and 6,979 hours of overtime valued at approximately $330,401 were used.

“It was just a little bit of a perfect storm,” said Superior Court Judge Scott Collier. He said that during this time period a disproportionate number of employees used the Family and Medical Leave Act to go on leave for medical or family reasons. He also said that the guild that represents detention officers also resisted hiring temporary staff to make up for staff shortfalls.

According to the audit, management was ineffective in determining staffing needs, scheduling resources, measuring results and managing overtime. Additionally, management decreased the availability of temporary staff that could have provided effective personnel at a lower cost, according to the audit.

The audit recommended that management “track, analyze, and use operational performance data on an annual basis” while also better tracking paid-time off for employees. Additionally, the audit recommended making better use of temporary employees.

Juvenile Court Administrator Chris Simonsmeier said that management has taken steps to improve the use of overtime and that the facility was under budget last year as well as this year.

©2018 The Columbian (Vancouver, Wash.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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