September 2nd, 2011
By: Mary Kay Mallonee
WAVY.com has learned the Norfolk agency that has been paying an employee for 12 years even though she never showed up for work, was also giving her regular raises. Also city officials say the woman did cash the paychecks and spend the money.
The employee of the Norfolk Community Services Board , which is funded by taxpayers, was paid $25,000 to $40,000 a year, according to city officials. That means she has raked in $300,000 to $480,000, not including full benefits, over the last 12 years.
“It’s a mystery to us,” said Mayor Paul Fraim. “I’m horrified. We are all very distressed about this. How could something like this have gone on for so long? There needs to be some accountablilty. We need to get to the bottom of it.”
The Norfolk Community Services Board provides mental health and substance abuse help for low-income residents of Norfolk. The City Attorney’s office is investigating the situation and will soon turn the case over to Norfolk Police and the Commonwealth’s Attorney to decide whether or not the employee, or any other employees or supervisors at the agency, will be charged with a crime. “I mean, I don’t know how this could be an oversight,” said Fraim. “Someobody was intentionally getting paid for doing nothing.”
The relatively new executive director of the agency, Maureen Womack, refused to talk on camera or answer any questions, but she provided a written statement saying, “The City Attorney’s Office, with the approval of Womack, took appropriate steps to prevent any further payments to the employee and the employee was terminated.”
City Attorney Bernard Pishko told WAVY.com that he has spoken with the female employee and she “offered virtually no explanation” for why or how she has been receiving and cashing paychecks for more than a decade without performing any work. Pishko did say it is possible the employee will be required to repay some or all of the money.
WAVY.com contacted Dr. Lewis Taylor, PhD, Chairman and former Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the Community Services Board, and he refused to comment. Fraim said, “I met with the [City] Manager last week and she advised me that news of this was going to break.”
The City of Norfolk set the agency up as an “operating board,” which means it is self-governing. City Council appointed the nine-member Board of Trustees, which in turn hires the executive director of the agency and they operate autonomously. The city provides about $8 million of the agency’s $24 million annual budget. “Beyond that we have no relationship with them, no authority over them,” said Fraim.