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Audit reveals theft, misconduct in Emergency Management

Hernando Emergency Management Director Tom Leto has been on paid adminis?trative leave since late last month.

Hernando Emergency Management Director Tom Leto has been on paid adminis?trative leave since late last month.

BROOKSVILLE — Questionable business practices, ranging from possible conflicts of interest to unearned overtime pay for one employee to other special treatment of that same worker, emerged in an audit of the county's Emergency Management operation Friday.

Director Tom Leto, who has been on paid administrative leave since late last month, met with County Administrator David Hamilton and representatives of the county attorneys office Friday afternoon to answer to the 13 scathing findings.

Leto's employment status remained tenuous Friday. "We have concluded that we need to continue the investigation next week,'' Hamilton said.

While he called the continuing leave "lengthy, ponderous and expensive,'' he said the additional investigation is needed since the audit report provides troubling evidence and "careers are on the line.''

Leto, 46, has declined comment during the investigation.

The audit release comes after the arrest late Thursday of Leto's former secretary, Stephanie Anderson, on charges of official misconduct and grand theft for collecting nearly $10,000 in overtime pay for hours she did not work.

Leto and Anderson were placed on paid administrative leave last month and Anderson resigned a few days later.

The allegations came to light more than a month ago. Clerk of the Circuit Court Karen Nicolai said her office learned of the overtime issue from Barbara Dupre, who resigned herself as the county's Human Resources director Thursday for performance and reliability issues in several other unrelated areas.

"Barbara Dupre brought this to our attention and she thought there was nothing wrong with it,'' Nicolai said. "She told them to stop it … In fact, she said that, if she knew what a big deal we were going to make about it, she wouldn't have said anything.''

The audit document released late Friday states that communications between the Dupre and Leto "may have hampered the investigation.''

The audit reveals that the 365 overtime hours Leto approved for Anderson is "the highest for any board or clerk employee on record'' not counting fire and rescue personnel, even though there were no significant emergencies between December 2006 and February 2008.

Leto also reportedly shuffled job duties, removing hours from one employee while approving overtime for Anderson at the same time. He also tried to improve Anderson's pay grade but that request was not approved by upper management.

Audit Services Director Peggy Prentice concluded that the shuffled job duties didn't make sense. She also concluded that the time sheets used by emergency management were changed just after Anderson began working there and the space for time clocked in and time clocked out was deleted, a violation of the county's Hours and Compensation Policy.

She goes on to point out that the county's supervision policy requires supervisors to verify employee time sheets, yet there were multiple instances of inconsistencies.

The report also shows that Anderson, whose job was as a secretary, attended the 2007 National Hurricane Conference in New Orleans, as did Leto, while emergency management coordinators and planners did not.

Prentice also found 212 nonbusiness-related calls totalling eight hours and 10 minutes on Anderson's county cellphone in violation of the county's telephone policy and noted that she has signature authority in excess of the position that she holds.

In addition, Prentice reports three instances in which Leto may have had several conflicts of interest.

In one case, he hired his sister-in-law Mercia Green to update the Emergency Management break room at the cost of $500. In another, he paid Don Harris, an employee's husband, to do grant work totaling $3,042.

In the third case, Leto hired accountant David Biladeau as a sole source provider, meaning the job wasn't bid, paying him $74,000 for his services from 2004 to 2007. Biladeau is reportedly a friend of Leto.

In each case, Prentice qualifies the information, stating that it could be a conflict depending on whether the relationships were communicated to the Purchasing and Contracts Department.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1434.

Audit reveals theft, misconduct in Emergency Management 04/25/08 [Last modified: Sunday, April 27, 2008 1:44pm]
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