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Worker ran errands, billed Hernando County for overtime pay, investigators say

Stephanie Anderson is charged with grand theft and official misconduct.

Stephanie Anderson is charged with grand theft and official misconduct.

BROOKSVILLE — Stephanie Anderson was busy running errands Feb. 21, her credit card receipts show.

First she shopped at the Nature Coast Deli & Bar in Crystal River at 12:17 p.m.; less than an hour later, she was at Publix on State Road 44. Somehow, she found time to run in to the Solar Nails & Spa in Beverly Hills at 2:10 p.m.

Her duties as secretary at the Hernando County Emergency Management Department did not interfere with her busy schedule, however. She was on the clock the entire time.

In fact, she put in for 10 hours that day, meaning she collected time and a half overtime pay. Her standard hourly rate was $13.63.

But that was not the only day Anderson apparently was in two places at once.

Her debit card was getting a workout at Nordstrom in Tampa the afternoon of Dec. 14, while she was claiming an eight-hour workday in Hernando County.

On Feb. 15, Anderson rang up 10 hours on the clock, even though co-workers said she was out that day for a medical procedure. Her credit card was dinged at 12:13 p.m. at Suncoast Endoscopy in Inverness.

These are just a few of the incidents that led to Anderson's arrest late Thursday on charges of official misconduct and grand theft. Anderson, 44, lives in Citrus County but surrendered to authorities at the Sumter County Jail after a warrant was issued for her arrest. She was released on $4,000 bail.

The arrest affidavit spells out eight days when Anderson claimed to be at work when evidence suggests she was elsewhere. "Utilizing her position as a public servant'' and acting "with corrupt intent,'' from December 2006 to February, she collected $9,865.23 in overtime pay that she did not earn, according to the report.

That amounted to 380 hours of overtime at a time when her boss, Emergency Management director Tom Leto, had told all of his employees that there would be no overtime.

"The policy was enforced in regard to all employees with the exception of the suspect,'' the report states.

Anderson also received special treatment in other ways.

She could come and go as she pleased without counting hours off as vacation or sick time, detectives reported.

She attended the National Hurricane Conference in New Orleans with Leto in 2007 even though the conference does not deal with issues relevant to her work as a secretary. Another Emergency Management employee, the mitigation and recovery coordinator, had asked to go to the conference — which was directly related to her job — but she was turned down.

A phone call to Anderson's home seeking comment was not returned Friday.

Detectives used a variety of techniques to determine that Anderson was not at work on days she claimed to be there. They reviewed a system that tracks when employees are at work, records of when she used her electronic key to get into the office, and whether she had used her computer or other county equipment to do work those days.

These showed where she was not on those days. Her credit and debit card transactions showed where she was instead.

Detectives uncovered purchases at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants. There was a charge at Gulf Boulevard Liquor and Lounge in St. Pete Beach and another charge at a Beall's.

When detectives interviewed Leto and Anderson, they both stressed that Anderson was paid overtime to review grant work of all Emergency Management employees, the report states. Anderson did not write the grants, they said, she just reviewed them.

"Mr. Leto advised that his office worked on an honor system in tracking the overtime claimed and if Stephanie Anderson was not working the hours she claimed, he did not know about it,'' the report states.

Anderson told detectives that she worked her overtime mostly at home or during her lunch hour. She did not keep a daily accounting of her extra hours and explained that she believed she was actually working more hours than she was claiming.

Both Leto and Anderson told detectives that there was no way to verify the overtime other than that the work was done. Anderson also said that she did not recall Leto's "no overtime'' edict even though her name was recorded as having read it.

Other employees told detectives different stories about Anderson's responsibilities and work habits.

They said she did not work lunches or stay late. She also was not in charge of reviewing grants, they said, adding that there was no way that the grant Anderson was responsible for would have taken so long to review.

Detectives also determined that no one other than Anderson and Leto would know about the overtime. Whenever someone else in the office was responsible for payroll, no overtime was charged, "further indication that there was an attempt to conceal the fact that the suspect was receiving overtime,'' according to the report.

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

Worker ran errands, billed Hernando County for overtime pay, investigators say 04/25/08 [Last modified: Friday, May 2, 2008 10:02pm]

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