Hundreds of state workers paid to do nothing but watch TV, wasting $2.7M
A report by the state auditor concludes that as the Woodbridge Developmental Center was in the process of closing in 2014, more than 800 direct care employees stayed on the job collecting their full pay with no responsibilities.
As patients were moved to other facilities the number of employees remained the same but they had no responsibilities, according to the report. The cottages, or 'hubs" where patients lived were converted into areas where employees watched TV and played cards.
And when the North Jersey Developmental Center, 124 employees were "bumped" to the WDC, including 82 employees in direct care roles, the report said.
"Since WDC had no need for these employees, they were not assigned direct care or any other specific duties upon arrival," the report says. "According to WDC management, the employees assigned to hubs generally refused to volunteer for out-of-title work around the center."
"In November 2014, we observed WDC employees in a hub sitting idle, watching television or playing card games," it continues.
The employees were allowed to stay on because of Civil Service rules that allow employees facing layoffs time to decide whether there may be other jobs that suit them.
But the state requested an extension to keep the WDC employees on for 27 days longer than a usual 120-day notification requirement. The report said that was unnecessary, as final interviews were being completed on schedule. The state had estimated the layoff process for 1,080 WDC employees would have been completed in 147 days — but it only took 74 days to complete the layoff of nearly as many North Jersey Developmental Center employees.
The extension delayed layoff dates from Dec. 13, 2014 to Jan. 9 of this year — so the state paid out another $3.2 in salaries, including $2.7 for "idle" employees, the report said.
Most employees were also moved to the first shift — but because of sloppy bookkeeping, more than 330 workers received night-shift bumps of 25 cents an hour, even though they weren't working nights, the report said. That cost another $22,600, the report said.
After the last patient left WDC, employees were given the option to report early to their new assignments, the report said. Most chose to stay with the original schedule and continued to report to the WDC, it said. Only two employees agreed to transfer early to the New Lisbon Developmental Center, which was in need of help.
In a response to the report, acting Dept. of Human Services commissioner Elizabeth Connolly agreed with most of the report's findings but said that half of the $2.7 million would be be reimbursed by the federal government.
Connolly also said both the WDC and NJDC were closing at the same time due to a mandated timetable, and said the state had limited flexibility to move up the layoffs. The closures overall save the state $116.9 million annually, she wrote.