Payroll probe sends county official packing

Joe Jordan | Nebraska Watchdog

In the wake of a scathing state audit and an exclusive report by Nebraska Watchdog the man in charge of the roads in usually quiet Dundy County is out of a job.

Highway Superintendent Mike Edwards, who was accused of piling up “large amounts of overtime” amounting to thousands of dollars that could not be verified, resigned Monday afternoon, according to County Commissioner Jerry Fries.

The state auditor’s investigation turned up this potentially incriminating photo

Fries also says Edwards will repay the county some but “not a lot of money” for days Edwards claimed to work—especially a Christmas and Thanksgiving or two—which could not be nailed down.

State Auditor Mike Foley says during 2012 and 2013 Edwards was paid nearly $50,000 in overtime, above and beyond his straight pay of $70,816.

In addition Foley noted that between July, 2012 and February, 2014 ten of Edwards’ employees earned 72 hours of OT. During that same stretch Edwards claimed 1,763 OT hours—24 times more than the highway department’s other workers.

Foley said any questions about Edwards’ work load could have easily been cleared up by checking the county’s electronic time clock, except that Edwards never clocked in or out.

Commissioner Fries says the county’s next highway chief will either punch the clock or be on salary.

While Fries says he’s not surprised Edwards resigned he also described Edwards as a “working fool” in a case that “looked a hell of lot worse than it was.”

However, Foley’s investigation does include some evidence—seemingly self-inflicted—that Edwards had also played fast and loose with his sick-time and vacation hours.

From June, 2011 through March, 2014 Edwards never recorded using any sick or vacation days.

But in his report Foley notes a Facebook photo from May, 2013, posted by “the Superintendent’s spouse.” It’s apparently the couple walking hand-in-hand during a trip to Lake Dillon, Colorado.

Contact Joe Jordan at joe@nebraskawatchdog.org.

Joe can be heard on Omaha’s KFAB radio every Monday at 7:40 a.m. and KHAS-AM in Hastings every Wednesday at 7:30 a.m. and 12:45 p.m.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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