Update: On the afternoon of Tuesday, Nov. 25, Nevada Journal received a response to its Sunday, Nov. 23 inquiry from CCSD Press Secretary Melinda Malone. See inset paragraph below.
A Clark County School District investigation into apparent paid-leave abuse by the district’s former purchasing director has resulted in a repayment to the district.
“The District conducted its investigation in an expeditious manner once the information regarding Ms. Tollen’s working in Washington State was discovered,” wrote Melinda Malone, CCSD’s press secretary, in an email last week. The District, said Malone, “was able to recover all monies it believed it was owed.”
Both the amount of money involved and the extent of abuse remains unknown, however. District officials did not respond to multiple inquiries seeking the amount of money recouped.
School district officials, characterizing the investigation report as a “confidential personnel record,” also denied Nevada Journal’s request for a copy of the investigation findings.
Nevada Journal was first to break the story of the school district’s investigation this past September. The publication had been tipped that Bramby Tollen — who CCSD in March had transferred to the Human Resources Department after 12 years as the district’s director of purchasing and warehousing — was actually gainfully employed in Snohomish County, Washington, and residing there.
The day that Tollen started as Snohomish County’s purchasing manager, June 13, she was also collecting pay from CCSD at an approximate daily rate of pay of $433, plus her Nevada Public Employment Retirement System benefits.
According to district records, Tollen received over $17,000 in CCSD salary and more than $4,000 in PERS benefits while present and working in Snohomish before submitting her resignation to the district on September 3.
During that period she also received a five percent longevity raise — increasing her pay from $8,880 a month to $9,316.
Moreover, despite a CCSD investigation finding that Tollen had to repay the district an amount – the size of which CCSD would not disclose — Tollen still walked away with a retirement package of nearly $6,000, equivalent to13 days of accrued vacation pay.
According to the district’s contract with its administrator union, the Clark County Association of School Administrators and Professional-technical Employees, every administrator may accumulate up to 85 vacation days, each reimbursable at the daily rate of pay the administrator was receiving at the time of separation. Any administrator owing the District money at the time of separation, says CCSD, would have that money deducted.
“The only funds Ms. Tollen was entitled to,” wrote Malone, “were the balance of vacation days she may have had but which had not been reimbursed.”
At Tollen’s new daily rate of pay — $454.44 — 85 vacation days would come to just over $38,600.
“Ms. Tollen received a total of $5,907.68 in pays [sic] before withholding of taxes.”
School district officials did not reply to multiple inquiries seeking the actual number of vacation days Tollen had accumulated. Nor had they responded by press time Tuesday to a query sent Sunday asking whether the findings had been turned over for criminal review.
Update: Tuesday afternoon, CCSD spokesperson Malone wrote Nevada Journal, "Employees who have monies owed to them — such as for accumulated vacation days, are not paid for those days until the accounts are balanced and any monies owed to the District are deducted from the total owed." Referring to criminal charges, she said, "It would be difficult to charge an employee who did not receive payment for more than was owed." Through the reduction of accumulated vacation monies owed to Tollen, said Malone, "the District recovered all amounts owed as a result of the non-payment of vacation days due to the employee."
Late last August, Kirsten Searer, the district’s chief of staff and external affairs, declined to answer a question regarding Tollen’s return to work from leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). “We can’t discuss the specifics of any employee’s FMLA status,” said Searer.
Later, a Las Vegas Review-Journal article reported Tollen had been receiving sick pay since mid-May.
The district’s contract with administrators, however, is crystal clear: Sick leave is only to be used when an absence from work is unavoidable due to illness.
“If in fact she is out on sick leave,” Stephen Augspurger, executive director of the CCASA, told Nevada Journal, “and during the time she’s using sick leave [she] has sought and been awarded employment someplace else, then she is misusing our sick leave because her absence from work is no longer unavoidable.”
Karen Gray is a reporter/researcher with Nevada Journal. For more in-depth reporting, visit nevadajournal.com and npri.org.