Former Northfield Chief Financial Officer Marilyn Dolcy was paid more than 324 hours of unapproved comp time over her last three months of employment, even while working full time for Galloway Township.
Documents obtained by The Press of Atlantic City through an Open Public Records Act request show Dolcy had compiled more than 324 hours of comp time since 2005 and used it all between Oct. 3, when she began full-time employment as Galloway’s chief financial officer, and Dec. 15, 2011, the date of her last comp-time request from Northfield. The hours were mostly accrued from attending city functions such as council meetings and budget meetings. Her employment officially ended in Northfield on Dec. 31.
Northfield Mayor Vince Mazzeo said that as an “essential” employee, attending meetings should have been regarded as part of her regular workweek. Mazzeo, however, said he did not know whether that was ever made clear to Dolcy.
Mazzeo said Dolcy, being a department head, submitted time sheets to the payroll department without his approval and that the payroll department disbursed the funds. Mazzeo said he had refused to approve the comp time payments before October until after he consulted legal counsel.
Finance Committee Chairman Tom Polistina, City Clerk Mary Canesi and Mazzeo said no public record exists of Dolcy’s comp time being approved. They also said no resignation or termination document exists for Dolcy in city records, nor does an approved work schedule exist for Dolcy for the fourth quarter of 2011. All three said the process was handled verbally.
Canesi said responsibility for completing the termination process falls on the department chair.
Absent a city administrator, Mazzeo said, Dolcy reported to the mayor and finance chair.
Dolcy was able to nearly double her earnings during the last three months of 2011 by cashing in her comp and vacation time while working elsewhere. She was paid almost $19,000 by Northfield and more than $26,000 by Galloway during the year’s final quarter.
Time sheets — which Dolcy filled out herself in Northfield — indicate that she actually reported to work in Northfield for less than 75 total hours for the last three months of 2011. Galloway records, however, show that most of those days she also worked seven hours in Galloway.
By being paid a full paycheck from Northfield over the last three months of 2011, according to an estimate from the Treasury Department, Dolcy was able to boost her final average annual salary there — from which pension payments are ultimately calculated — by nearly $580. The Treasury Department said it does not provide payment estimates until the person applies for retirement and the application can be closely reviewed.
Dolcy also cashed in 60 hours of vacation time with Northfield at the end of December. However, according to records she submitted to the city, she claims she still had a balance of 84 vacation hours and 149 sick-time hours that she says is worth a combined payout of $73,439.27 as of Jan. 7. Mazzeo said discussions into how to handle the payout are ongoing.
Dolcy’s total salary in Northfield for 2011 was $81,948, according to the state Department of the Treasury.
The “employee ethics” ordinance in Northfield’s code book states: “Employees are prohibited from engaging in outside employment activities while on the job or using city time, supplies or equipment in the outside employment activities.”
The time sheets Dolcy submitted in both Northfield and Galloway show that on almost all of the days she collected comp time in Northfield, she also put in for a full day’s work in Galloway.
The state’s Local Government Ethics Law seems to stop short of Northfield’s policy, stating only: “No local government officer or employee shall undertake any employment or service, whether compensated or not, which might reasonably be expected to prejudice his independence of judgment in the exercise of his official duties.” But it adds that local governments have the duty “to provide their citizens with standards by which they may determine whether public duties are being faithfully performed.”
Galloway’s ethics code basically mirrors the state’s.
Both Mazzeo and Polistina admitted they were unaware of the employee ethics statute that seemingly should have prohibited Dolcy from being able to use the comp time hours while working for Galloway.
“Once she was working in Galloway, she continued to help us. She worked here for over 10 years, and she was coming in at night getting stuff done for us. Other CFOs work in multiple towns, so there was nothing wrong with that,” said Polistina, who became a councilman in 2011. “I didn’t know of any of the comp time. And I would assume that any comp time she was using was authorized, and that if she had comp time, she should have been able to use it.”
Mazzeo said Dolcy asked him to approve her payout for sick, vacation and comp time prior to October. But he said he refused to do so until he discussed it with the city’s legal counsel, due to the amount of time Dolcy said she was owed. Mazzeo was unable to say what counsel ultimately recommended because the matter is still pending.
“I didn’t know about or agree to any of the comp time she used during the last two months of the year. If I did see her time sheets, there would’ve been a red flag and I would have questioned it because we were still waiting to hear back from legal counsel, specifically on these issues,” said Mazzeo, adding that he did not find out how much comp time Dolcy had used until the first or second week of January. “Being a department head, she came in to work part time and used the comp to make it a full week.”
Contacted by The Press, Dolcy said: “I really do not want to comment on any of that.”
Galloway comp time
Dolcy recently drew criticism in Galloway for submitting more than 57 hours of comp time, at time and a half for each hour worked, that she said she compiled in less than three months on the job.
Dolcy submitted 33 separate comp-time requests in Galloway between her first day of work, Oct. 3, and Dec. 16, mostly for working through lunch there. Dolcy — a salaried employee who makes $105,000 annually in Galloway — has since forfeited the time.
Four of Dolcy’s lunch comp-time requests in Galloway came on days when she also said she worked in Northfield.
Former Galloway Township Manager Steve Bonanni, who initially approved Dolcy’s comp time there, eventually retired amid questions about his decisionmaking.
Northfield City Council President Tim Carew said there is no internal investigation into the situation, but the city is looking into how to handle it.
“With all the information that is out there, we are waiting to get advice from our professionals on how to move forward so we have full accountability for everything that is going on,” Carew said.
An executive session to address possible future litigation on the issue was recently postponed, but Carew said it would be rescheduled as soon as the governing body has all the information it needs to move forward. Mazzeo said that meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday.
Mazzeo also said the city has already taken steps to try to prevent similar situations from occurring in the future, including making it clear to all future CFOs that attending council meetings is part of their regular workweek.
“An email has been sent to all departments to turn their time sheets in, not only to the Finance Department, but also to the City Clerk’s Office so they can be placed in their personnel file. And now, more than ever, we will look into the files to make sure we know where all the time is coming from,” Mazzeo said. “We are also looking into an automated system for employees to punch in and punch out on when they work. That will come down to dollars and cents, and if we can afford it. But I expect it to be at the top of the list.”
Former Northfield CFO Marilyn Dolcy reported to work for less than 75 hours in the fourth quarter of 2011, yet was paid almost $19,000 — mostly in unapproved comp time — for the quarter. Northfield officials cannot account for how the more than 324 hours’ comp time was paid to Dolcy without approval other than her own.
Dolcy was working full time as Galloway Township’s chief financial officer while also claiming time worked and comp time in Northfield.
Northfield officials admit they were unaware of a section of the city ethics code that prohibits a city employee “from engaging in outside employment activities while on the job or using city time, supplies or equipment in the outside employment activities.”
Contact Rob Spahr: