McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

October 2, 2012

City manager questions nine as part of senior city employee leave probe

By James Beaty
Senior Editor

McALESTER — McAlester City Manager Pete Stasiak has investigated a senior city employee’s time records and has questioned at least nine more city employees in interviews that were witnessed by police.

The city manager said he found  no wrongdoing.

“We’re done as far as I’m concerned,” Stasiak said.

McAlester Police Det. Capt. Gary Wansick had sat in on all nine of the interviews, which Wansick said occurred at City Hall on Sept. 14.

“I don’t anticipate any further follow-up on my part,” Wansick said.

The interviews were conducted following allegations and rumors that have been posted on a public Facebook site.

Asked about allegations that the employees had left his office in tears, or had been threatened or intimidated, Stasiak said he saw no one crying  and he hasn’t threatened or attempted to intimidate anyone.

“We don’t threaten people. We don’t intimidate them,” he said. He characterized the meetings as civil.

Wansick also said he saw no one in tears, and he verified there had been no threats or intimidation.

Stasiak was also asked about allegations that he had prohibited city employees from speaking with the News-Capital.

“Absolutely not,” Stasiak said. “Your name never came up,” he said, referring to the News-Capital.

The News-Capital attempted to speak to all nine women involved in the interviews to see if they had felt threatened or intimidated.

Seven of the nine said any allegations that they felt threatened or intimidated are completely false, while two declined to talk about the matter.

The News-Capital also requested Ervin’s payroll records dating back to her date of hire. While the stack of documents is still being examined, those examined so far have matched to documents in payroll records.

Stasiak said his meetings with the employees had been prompted by the accusations regarding alleged discrepancies in leave records by city Chief Financial Officer Toni Ervin.

The city manager said such accusations against any employee are taken very seriously.

“She was accused of taking time off without proper documentation,” Stasiak said.

“That’s what precipitated this,” he said. “We all know the history of McAlester.”

Stasiak said he personally looked through all of Ervin’s payroll and leave records since her hire date in 2010 and is satisfied no unauthorized leave has been taken.

“We determined there was no wrongdoing from Toni,” Stasiak said.

The city manager said Ervin is a salaried employee, and he has personally been aware of her putting in more hours than she’s required to work on many occasions. In addition, she has put in a lot of training time, he said.

Regarding the interviews with city employees, Wansick said he had attended them after he was told that Stasiak would like another person to sit in on the interviews.

“He requested a detective,” Wansick said.

Wansick said three items were examined:

To establish if any leave was taken that should not have been taken.

To establish if people believed leave was taken that should not have been taken, and were passing that information along.

To establish if anybody was falsely accusing the city’s chief financial officer of anything.

After the investigation had been completed, Wansick said “I certainly didn’t see anything criminal.”

Some of the women who were interviewed worked in the city payroll or finance department, or other departments supervised by Ervin. Others worked in completely independent  offices.

Donna Newman was one of the women who was brought in for an interview.

Newman works in the Customer Service Department at City Hall and also holds seat 3 on the McAlester School Board.

She characterized rumors circulating that the women had been threatened or belittled in the interviews with  Stasiak and Wansick as “a lot of crap.”

Asked if she had felt threatened or mistreated during her interview, Newman said “Oh Lord, no.

“Everything was very cordial and friendly,” she said.

“No intimidation. No threats. No belittling. No harassment.

“We sat down and had a discussion and that was pretty much it,” Newman said.

The News-Capital spoke with Ervin Friday about the recent happenings.

“I have nothing to hide,” Ervin said. She said it’s been difficult to try and answer anonymous allegations.

She said Stasiak told her there had been allegations regarding her leave slips and time sheets.

“If anyone has any doubts, I’m happy to go out and find what the complaint is,” Ervin said.

“I’m not sure what they’re talking about,” she said, in regard to any specific allegations.

The city has two primary ways that employee’s payroll time is tracked, according to Stasiak, as well as a number of other employees at City Hall which the News-Capital spoke with independently. One is called leave slips, the other is called time sheets.

A leave slip is basically a request for leave, while a time sheet is a record of the actual hours worked. While most leave slips are to be filled out in advance, such as a request for vacation time, Stasiak said in a separate interview there are times that may not be possible, due to the sudden onset of an illness or an emergency.

Ervin maintained “I have followed policies and procedures. I have filled out my time properly.”

In reference to the allegations against her, Ervin said “Someone, somewhere, I don’t know who, has perceived me doing something improper.

“I have filled it out correctly,” she said of her work records.

Regarding the entire situation, Ervin said “It’s a distraction from trying to get business done.”

The News-Capital also requested Ervin’s payroll records dating back to her date of hire. While the stack of documents is still being examined, those examined so far have matched to documents in payroll records.

Meanwhile, several of the other women who took part in the interviews with Stasiak and Wansick were asked how they felt the interviews were conducted.

Asked if she felt threatened or intimidated, McAlester Safety Officer Shawn Smith said “Absolutely not.”

Smith is a former McAlester police detective and patrol officer.

“The interviews were conducted in a very professional manner,” Smith said. “I haven’t had any of the others come to me and say there intimidated.”

Smith then spoke of Ervin.

“She has a great deal of integrity,” Smith said, saying she has talked with Ervin regarding other issues.

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