Hendersonville Codes Director Brian Washko resigned abruptly last week a day after city leaders discussed for nearly two hours findings from the city’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR).
State law requires governing bodies to submit an annual audit to the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office by Dec. 31 of each year.
Auditors with Kraft CPAs, the firm hired by the city to conduct the audit, presented its findings for the fiscal year ended June 30 to the city’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Jan. 28.
Audit: Policies weren’t followed
While the city received a clean, unmodified opinion from auditors, much of the discussion centered around a financial statement finding that listed two instances where the city failed to adhere to its own internal policies and procedures.
“As part of the audit, we were made aware [of] an instance where a new employee appears to have been granted additional vacation above the standards as part of their employment, however this was not documented in the employee’s file,” wrote auditors. “Additionally, we were made aware of two instances of donations made to non-profit organizations that did not go through the channels prescribed by Tennessee Code Annotated Section 6-54-111.”
Ward 6 Alderman Jim Waters asked how auditors were made aware of the policy violations.
Ken Youngstead of Kraft CPAs said that the Comptroller’s Office had been alerted to possible violations, and asked the auditors to look into them.
Several aldermen have brought the issues up during public meetings.
During a General Committee meeting in November, it was revealed that Codes Director Brian Washko appeared to have received several perks since being hired, including the equivalent of 11 weeks paid vacation, a $3,900 signing bonus and $9,000 in moving expenses.
When aldermen asked Washko how much time he had accrued, he said that was part of his negotiations with Mayor Jamie Clary, and referred aldermen to Clary.
Ward 3 Alderman Arlene Cunningham had previously asked during a BOMA meeting if Clary violated a state statute by writing a $10,000 check to Hendersonville High School’s band and chorus programs as well as a $2,000 check to the Edison School for moving expenses.
Youngstead said on Jan. 28 that auditors didn’t think the two payments were made according to the proper statute regarding donations to non-profit agencies.
When asked by Waters if the city violated Tennessee Code, Youngstead said that it had.
Ward 4 Alderman Andy Bolt asked Finance Director Robert Manning if he was consulted about the donations. Manning said he was told that the city was paying for exposure. The HHS band and chorus recently performed in the London, England New Year’s Day Parade.
Bolt then asked about the codes director’s vacation time.
“For a year I hear rumors about policy not being followed,” said Bolt. “There are no secrets at City Hall and I kept hearing about one department head getting three weeks extra vacation that others didn’t get.”
Bolt asked Human Resources Manager Peter Voss how much vacation time was allowed versus what was taken.
Washko was hired in June 2018 to replace Steve Mills who retired after holding the position for 36 years.
Voss said that he wasn’t consulted about the vacation time by Clary, nor was it documented on Washko’s Personnel Action Form.
“From the research I did over an 18-month period, there were 352 hours of leave with pay,” said Washko. “Normally over an 18-month period a new employee would earn 18 days with pay. Voss added that 352 hours is 44 days.
Clary asked Voss is there was a record for how much comp and training time Washko used.
Voss said that Washko had 136 more hours for training. He added that from June 7 to Nov. 22, Washko was away from work for 79.5 days.
When Clary again asked if some of the days Washko took off could have been comp time, Voss said there was no way of knowing since there was no documentation.
Alderman Steve Brown, who represents Ward 4, asked Manning how much money the 352 hours equated to.
Manning estimated around $16,500.
Ward 1 Alderman Peg Petrelli asked City Attorney John Bradley if any laws had been broken.
“If you don’t put the truth on a time sheet – you say you’re working when you’re not working – most people would consider that to be fraud,” said Bradley.
“The illegal part… are you getting paid for services you didn’t render and people have been prosecuted in this state for that,” Bradley added.
Ward 2 Alderman Scott Sprouse said he had been trying to get answers about Washko’s accrued time from Clary since November to no avail.
Washko: Time off was approved by mayor
Washko, who didn’t attend the Jan. 28 meeting, resigned effective immediately on Jan. 29.
“After watching BOMA last night and the accusation that the time off I took was done inappropriately was shameful,” he wrote. “All the time I took off was pre-approved by the mayor before taken.”
Washko said that most of the time taken was for training of Engergov (city computer system) and building codes, not just vacations.
“No one has asked me or gone over my hours and what they [were] used for, just accusations and assumptions,” he said.
Washko also said that he has been performing two jobs since his employment, that of the director and that of a plans examiner.
“How much money have I saved the City by performing two jobs? Perhaps Peter [Voss] and Robert [Manning] can provide you that number. I have over a week vacation on the books, keep it,” he wrote.
Washko, who came to the city from Placerville, Calif., was one of five applicants identified as meeting the requirements for the position, according to an Assessment Center report from the University of Tennessee’s Municipal Technical Advisory Service. He was the highest rated candidate, MTAS Consultant Gary Jaeckel told board members in May of 2018.
He was the northern California operations manager for SAFEBuilt when the city hired him. Before that, he was the chief building official for the county of Sacramento, Calif., from July 2012 to December 2015.
Washko is not the first City Hall employee to resign this year.
Voss resigned Jan. 5 to take a job with the Municipal Technical Advisory Service in West Tennessee. His last day with the city is Feb. 6.