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HRS investigates reports of employees running errands

The state Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (HRS) is investigating allegations that workers performed personal business on state time. A local television station reported Tuesday that four HRS workers tended to private business when their timecards indicated they should have been visiting juvenile clients.

But HRS spokesman Tom Jones said a preliminary investigation showed some employees were doing their work during evening and weekend hours. However, they had been taught _ wrongly _ to say they worked an eight-hour day shift, he said.

"There was a management error," Jones said Tuesday.

Workers are required to log in their actual hours, he said.

HRS officials will interview juvenile clients to determine whether they have been contacted regularly by HRS employees, he said. So far the investigation has shown the clients were contacted, he said.

Jones said HRS will take disciplinary action if necessary.

One of the workers who was profiled in the report by WFLA-Ch. 8 on Tuesday resigned last week, Jones said.

Lillian R. Booker, a community youth leader who makes about $12,000 a year before taxes, was followed to an employment office by a television reporter. Jones said she may have resigned to take a higher paying job.

Another of the profiled employees is on a pre-planned annual leave, he said.

Twelve community youth leaders usually are assigned to Hillsborough County, he said.

All of the workers involved knew they were being followed by a television reporter, Jones said. However, they told HRS investigators that they didn't stop what they were doing because they were on their own time and had nothing to hide, he said.

Jones said the agency's investigation had been under way for two weeks and could continue for some time.