Fayette County

Six Lexington golf employees suspended for falsifying time cards

Tates Creek Golf Course in Lexington.
Tates Creek Golf Course in Lexington. 2012 File Photo.

An internal investigation found time cards in Lexington’s golf operations had been altered to cheat lower-level employees out of overtime pay. The report recommended an 80-hour suspension of the director of golf operations and suspensions for five other golf professionals for altering time cards.

The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Division of Human Resources conducted the investigation after being alerted to time card irregularities by a golf employee in the fall of 2016. That investigation recommended that Mike Fields, the director of golf operations, be suspended for 80 hours. The report recommended suspensions without pay for other upper management golf employees of either 24 or 40 hours.

The Herald-Leader obtained the April investigation and the recommendation for suspensions of golf employees through an open records request.

The other five employees and the recommend suspension time: Daniel Snelling, 24 hours; Justin Mullannix, 40 hours; Robin Moore, 24 hours; Aaron McDowell, 40 hours, and Corey Stith, 40 hours.

Fields, Mullannix and Snelling have appealed their suspensions to the Civil Service Commission, said John Maxwell, human resources director. The Civil Service Commission can overturn disciplinary actions. Moore, McDowell and Stith have not appealed.

Maxwell said the investigation is closed.

Brian Bennett, a superintendent at Tates Creek golf course, had previously been suspended for 24 hours in the fall of 2016 for the same violation — altering time cards. It was the investigation of Bennett that led the city to take a more detailed and comprehensive review of golf employee time cards. Bennett was suspended for an additional 40 hours without pay in October 2016 for storing his boat in a city building and having “falsely reported the facts to supervisor.”

The state Labor Cabinet is also investigating time card irregularities in the city’s parks and recreation department, labor officials have confirmed. That investigation is ongoing, said Jarrad Hensley, a spokesman for the state Labor Cabinet.

The human resources staff interviewed golf employees and reviewed time cards from 2015 and 2016. That review and those interviews found time cards were altered so employees would not exceed 40 hours a week.

“Eleven of 25 said they had worked overtime but had not been paid,” the report said. Many employees told human resources investigators that they were told that if they worked overtime that they could “bank” that time and leave early or not work as many hours the next week. Four of the 25 said they were told by supervisors that they could not indicate on time cards that they worked more than 40 hours a week.

“All employees stated that they do not have any accurate records to show the amount of time for which they have not been properly paid,” the report found.

At a minimum, the altering of employee time card suggests “an inconsistent use of the time clock or alternatively an attempt by management to avoid accurately capturing the time worked by employees,” the report said.

No specific allegations were made against Fields. Fields had issued a memorandum in 2014 that said handwritten time cards should be avoided. If time cards were handwritten, that time card had to be initialed by both the employee and the supervisor.

The investigation found Fields never followed up on his 2014 memo.

“It is clearly Mr. Fields’ ultimate responsibility to see that the procedures he set forth were followed,” the report said.

During peak season, the city’s golf department has an average of 104 full-time and seasonal employees. During golf’s offseason — December to March — the number of employees drops to an average of 43, parks officials told Lexington council members on Jan. 31.

The city has been working for several years to increase revenues in its golf operations. The five public golf courses have long operated in the red. For the fiscal year that ended June 30, golf operations operated at a more than $800,000 loss. But that’s an improvement from 2011, when golf’s losses climbed to $1.1 million.

The city has hired a consultant to analyze the city’s golf operations to determine how the operation can be run more efficiently. A final report will likely be presented to the Urban County Council in June, said General Services Commissioner Geoff Reed.

The consultant is not looking at closing a golf course, Reed said.

“We have never had an independent review of golf,” Reed said. There has been discussion for four or five years on ways to make golf more profitable and to cut losses, but the city needs more information.

“We need to have more and better information,” Reed said. “It’s an independent evaluation of golf operations so we can bench mark it against other public golf courses of similar size.”

Beth Musgrave: 859-231-3205, @HLCityhall