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June 3, 2011

OTA documents contradict claims

City administrator says city needs to ‘fully investigate’ contradictions

OTTUMWA — Documents obtained Thursday by the Courier show Ottumwa Transit Authority officials changed employee time sheets and received multiple grievances about the changes.

The documents appear to support employee claims that Director Pam Ward not only instructed staff to change time sheets to reduce pay, but that on at least one occasion the changes were made in accordance with official OTA policy.

Ward denied OTA ever changed time sheets when the accusations surfaced in a state auditor’s report last week. When union officials said they had filed the grievances and had the paperwork to prove it, Ward backtracked. She said there were no grievances filed since July 1, 2008.

But two of the documents obtained by the Courier show grievances filed in August 2008 and June 2009, after the date Ward cited.

The existence of the grievances also contradicts the city’s official response to auditors investigating the transit authority. The response, signed by City Attorney Joni Keith, pointed to an absence of grievances as evidence OTA management did not change timesheets.

City Administrator Joe Helfenberger said the city needs to “fully investigate,” the apparent contradictions.

“The city attorney and personnel director, working with Pam Ward and the transit authority attorney, put together the response. Since that time we’ve learned a lot more information,” he said.

The earliest document dates to January 2008, when a driver was notified his time sheet was altered. The driver had listed a 7:10 p.m. start time, “which would have been fine but I know that your 7:30 p.m. pickup at Osage Drive wasn’t picked up. I had to make the necessary changes and your sheet shows your first pickup was at 8:15 p.m.”

Four drivers with 10-15 Transit filed a grievance against Tom Jones, OTA’s operations manager, on Aug. 4, 2008. The grievance was filed by Bill Musgrove, then the drivers’ union steward, and alleged drivers were not paid for July 4, 2008. Jones’ signature appears on the grievance form with the notation it was received at 9:50 a.m. Aug. 6, 2008.

The document backs up Musgrove’s assertion in an interview last week that one of the grievances he filed as steward was because drivers were not given proper pay for a holiday.

A copy of an email sent by Jones on Jan. 2, 2009, indicates time sheets were altered to conform to Ottumwa’s Head Start program schedule over the 2008-09 holidays.

“Based on the route information that was provided to us by Head Start staff and applying Personnel Policy #2.08, I have adjusted your time sheets to reflect the information provided,” Jones wrote.

The most recent document is a letter from Ward to Musgrove, Jolynn Caylor and Bob Baird. Dated June 3, 2009, the letter notes a grievance received June 2, 2009, alleging Baird was “not fully compensated for funeral leave.”

Ward denied the grievance in the letter. She also made reference to the August 2008 grievance and notes “payment for those 4 holiday hours were paid to the grievants.”

Helfenberger on Thursday noted the Ottumwa Transit Authority is overseen by a board that is almost completely autonomous. A majority of council members have voiced support for an end to that autonomy, and Helfenberger said the OTA board’s status will “definitely” be on the agenda for the city council’s next meeting.

The city will seek to reach compliance with state transit requirements, Helfenberger said, and is asking for state assistance and training to do so.

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