UPDATE: DHHS Employees Go Bowling On State Time

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UPDATE: State Auditor Mike Foley is investigating 13 DHHS staff and contract employees who held a meeting at Sun Valley Lane and were bowling on state time.

Foley says his office receives tips all the time, but this is the first he has heard of employees bowling during the work day.

After doing a financial analysis of each of the 13 employees' hourly rates, Foley came up with about $832 total for each hour spent bowling. The employees were at Sun Valley Lanes for three hours, but only spent two hours bowling.

Over $1,600 would be paid back. Kathie Osterman with DHHS says the employees will have the option of paying the hours back through their own vacation time or unpaid time.

Osterman says the workers paid for all the food, drinks, and bowling with their own money and they have not yet been paid for the time spent bowling.

Foley will continue the investigation to see if any activity like this has happened in the past.

DHHS is having to explain why some state employees and contractors doing work involving the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid went bowling, and apparently still billed the state for their hours.

In a letter to 10/11, DHHS acknowledges that earlier this month, the 12 individuals, including two staffers and10 contractors, went bowling at Sun Valley Bowling Lanes, as part of what's being called a meeting/recognition event. Someone found out about it and complained.

DHHS wrote 10/11 a letter:

On Friday, Feb.7, 2014, a group of individuals attended an off-site meeting/recognition event at the Sun Valley Bowling lanes. The individuals worked together on activities related to the Administrative Simplification (AS) aspects of the Affordable Care Act and included contractors and two state staff. The event was scheduled to discuss some work items and recognize completion of recent portions of the Administrative Simplification project. The first hour of the meeting/recognition event included a work related activity and recognition of work accomplishments. Following the meeting the individuals did engage in bowling as part of the meeting/recognition event.

Prior to working for the state as a contractor, the supervisor had worked exclusively in the private sector where this sort of meeting/recognition event is common. In recognition that the public sector has different policies than the private sector, he did ensure that all food, drink and bowling costs were paid by the individuals in attendance and that attendance for the recognition portion of the event was voluntary. Transportation was not provided (the meeting/recognition event was 2 miles from the office) and no mileage reimbursement cost was provided. He also ensured that no alcohol was consumed during the event. He however did instruct the team they could charge the meeting/recognition event (3 hours) to their team meeting time sheet entry. This is also common in the private sector but is unacceptable in the public sector.

The DHHS Information Systems and Technology administrator did not have prior knowledge of the event or specifically approve/authorize it. The administrator has spoken with the supervisor and the supervisor was unaware his allowing the full meeting/recognition event time to be chargeable was inappropriate and is very apologetic for his error in judgment. The administrator has informed the supervisor this is against state practice and is not to be repeated.

The administrator will communicate to those who attended that the first hour of the meeting was acceptable as recorded. The contractors will be asked to change the last two hours to vacation or unpaid time. We are currently reviewing the labor contract/personnel rules to determine how to proceed with the two hours for the two state employees.