Saturday, May 8, 2021
May 8, 2021

Linkedin Pinterest

Deputies guild files payroll complaint against Clark County

It says county’s software has led to paycheck errors

By , Columbian county government and small cities reporter

A complaint lodged against Clark County claims that a new payroll software and time management system has resulted in several months of incorrect paychecks for some Clark County Sheriff’s Office employees.

The Clark County Deputy Sheriff Guild filed the complaint with the Washington State Auditor’s Office in February. It claims that the new payroll system, Workday, has underpaid some employees and overpaid others. The county started using the software in June.

Workday is a cloud-based software that automatically conducts some timekeeping tasks that would otherwise need to be done manually. The annual subscription costs more than $700,000, County Finance Director Mark Gassaway said.

However, the increased efficiency of the system will save money, Gassaway said.

“It creates a lot of different functionality,” Gassaway said. “It has the look and feel of a modern computerized system.”

The county learned in 2015 that its existing vendor, Oracle FMS, would no longer support its platform, Gassaway said. A nearly two-year search was launched. About 10 software systems were considered.

“It’s very extensive. It’s very time-consuming,” Gassaway said. “With a system change this big, you’re going to have some issues that come up.”

For the more than 400 employees in the sheriff’s office, comprising nearly a quarter of all county workers, the system has caused plenty of headaches, said Detective Joe Swenson, a member of the Clark County Deputy Sheriff’s Guild executive board. He added that Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency dispatchers and county Public Works employees have also experienced issues.

“We have to be able to anticipate that within the system,” Gassaway said. “We feel that we’re very diligent in setting this up within the system.”

Swenson said the system has not accurately accounted for deputies’ unusual hours, including swing and graveyard shifts, along with mandatory holiday and overtime work. For instance, in one period, Swenson said his overtime rate was off by 17 cents per hour.

“It’s doing some weird rounding errors that, sometimes, are off by a few cents or a few dollars,” Swenson said. “You can’t take a one-size-fits-all and make it work for everybody.”

For employees, the financial errors add up, and they have spent hours double-checking their paychecks, Swenson said. Some have already received notices from the county alerting them that their pay will be adjusted in the future to offset errors, he said.

“It’s just driving people up the wall, and they’re really stressed out about it,” Swenson said. “A lot of it is just the principle.”

When approached about issues, Swenson said, county officials either dismissed them, became defensive, or offered explanations that didn’t make sense. “They have all sorts of weird explanations for this stuff,” he said.

After the complaint was filed, Swenson sent an email to county officials outlining issues. Human Resources Department Director Kathleen Otto said Swenson declined a meeting to discuss the matter.

The county is unaware of the filed complaint since it is private, Gassaway said. While the exact cause of the issues is unclear, he said only about 20 cases of incorrect paychecks have been identified.

“For me, it’s kind of mind-blowing that we have been so successful with such a huge impact,” Otto said. “Any issues that impacted pay will be resolved by the next pay period.”

Other issues

The county has had other issues with the new software.

Last month, the Treasurer’s Office announced that property tax statements would be mailed March 4, instead of mid-February, due to the transition to Workday.

“A financial system implementation is a huge undertaking, and the treasurer’s office is working hard to limit the impact on taxpayers,” county Treasurer Alishia Topper said in a statement. “If residents have questions about their 2019 property taxes, my team is ready and available to assist.”

Clark County is not the only place where irregularities with Workday have been reported. Last year, Multnomah County, Ore., employees raised similar payroll concerns, according to Willamette Week.

As a detective, Swenson is part of the sheriff’s office’s Major Crimes Unit, which is often called to crime scenes on short notice. On Thanksgiving, for example, when a Vancouver police officer shot and wounded Demarcus D. Roundtree during a traffic stop, Swenson responded to the scene.

“I was like, ‘Oh my God, how is Workday going to figure this out?’ ” he said.

In the complaint filed with the state, the deputies’ guild conceded that the new system would likely not be tossed aside. But it requested changes that would better accommodate unusual schedules, as well as an audit of employees’ pay slips.

“We all say, ‘We hate change,’ right?” Swenson asked. “But in reality, our old system was really simple.”

Otto said she’s proud of county employees. “Our employees have been very resilient to adapting to the change.”

Columbian county government and small cities reporter