Four years, state employee’s pay goes unchecked

4 month News 13 investigation

SANTA FE (KRQE) – A News 13 review of state payroll records finds a mid-level state bureaucrat padding his time cards every day for four years. As a result, he ended up pocketing more than $62,000 in unsubstantiated, dubious payments.

Mike Carrillo is currently the Deputy Human Resources Manager at the Aging and Long Term Services Department in Santa Fe and practically every one of Carrillo’s bi-weekly time cards reflects obvious red flags. However, nobody noticed.

In fact, despite all the checks and balances in state government, no one questioned Mike Carrillo’s time. Not three cabinet secretaries. Not the eagle eyed bean counters at the Department of Finance and not the human resources folks at the State Personnel Office.

According to New Mexico’s State Personnel Director, “This is not something we would have caught in our normal course of business. This is a unique situation that occurred and it is not common practice.”

Who is Mike Carrillo?

After a long career at the Department of Corrections, Carrillo retired in 2002 and started drawing his PERA pension which today totals $77,484 a year. But his life of leisure was short lived. Four years later in 2006, Mike Carrillo was back working in state government, this time as a $60,542 a year employee at the state Aging and Long Term Services Department.

Because Carrillo returned to work before the state legislature prohibited double dipping, Mike Carrillo is allowed to collect both his PERA retirement as well as his state paycheck from his new job. And, even though Mike Carrillo’s job at ALTSD is a full-time position, the newly hired human resources specialist was allowed to set his own schedule.

Carrillo decided he only wanted to work part-time. He scheduled himself to be at his desk at 7:30 am and leave for the day four hours later at 11:30 am.

ALTSD Cabinet Secretary Myles Copeland admits Carrillo did not work full-time. When asked why, Secretary Copeland, who was hired this summer, said, “That’s a great question Larry and not one I have a great answer. I believe … that former cabinet secretary’s had made that decision. Its not one we should have made.”

State Personnel Director Justin Najaka says he is “very concerned” about Carrillo’s part-time status. “The agency has indicated by having a full-time position that there is a full 40 hours worth of work to do by that employee,” Najaka says. “An employee in a full time position should be at their work station working the full 40 hours,” Najaka adds.

And Mike Carrillo’s part-time status is not the only questionable decision at Aging and Long Term Services.

A Few Extra Hours

Beginning in January 2011, Carrillo started padding his time card. Every day for four years he bumped up his time card a few extra hours. Some days it might be 1-½ hours, sometimes 2 hours and occasionally more. In one pay period in 2014, Mike Carrillo claimed to have worked 30 extra hours. State employees who work extra hours are compensated straight time as opposed to overtime, which is paid at time and a half.

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State regulations require documentation for any extra time worked. However, Mike Carrillo failed to justify a single minute of the more than 1,800 hours he claimed as extra time. And even though nobody at ALTSD knew what he did to earn all that money, no one questioned hundreds of dubious discrepancies contained on his time sheets.

Justin Najaka explains that any employee who wants to work extra hours must first have a supervisor’s authorization on a case-by-case basis.

When asked if Mike Carrillo supplied documentation for his extra hours, Secretary Copeland said, “There was not documentation.”

Secretary Copeland was one of several supervisors who approved Carrillo’s time. “I was operating on the belief that he was working the amount of time he said he was,” Copeland said.

How did Mike Carrillo get paid so much for so long without anyone raising a red flag? News 13 has learned it was a payroll scheme approved four years ago by a previous ALTSD cabinet secretary. The approval is contained in a string of emails obtained by News 13.

Four Years, Pay Goes Unchecked

On August 1, 2011 Mike Carrillo sent a “Good Morning Boss” email to then ALTSD Cabinet Secretary Retta Ward. In the communication Carrillo asked for additional compensation because he spends “a lot of hours in the afternoon responding to emails” and answering phone calls. Carrillo wrote, “If you do not want me to continue to respond, please let me know and I will not include these hours on my time sheet…”

A few hours later, Secretary Ward responded, “I do want you to continue with these activities.”

Armed with cabinet level blanket approval Mike Carrillo racked up tens of thousands of dollars in extra hours yet none of the extra time was documented as required by state rules.

Over the next four years Secretary Ward routinely approved Mike Carrillo’s time cards without question. After Ward left to take over the Department of Health, ALTSD Secretary Gino Rinaldi approved Carrillo’s time cards.

Myles Copeland also signed-off on Carrillo’s extra time. When asked whether he had knowledge of Carrillo actually working those extra hours, Copeland responded, “I believed that he was but I did not know.”

Personnel Director Najaka says blanket permission to work unlimited extra hours without substantiation is “totally inappropriate.”

“It’s important that cabinet secretary’s not authorize this type of blanket approval, and if they have, that practice should stop,” Najaka said.

Mike Carrillo did not return any of News 13’s repeated phone calls for comment. A News 13 Producer caught up with the ALTSD employee at his Santa Fe office. He declined to explain his time cards and said; “I don’t think you guys are fair in your stories so I have nothing to say.”

Following News 13’s four-month investigation, Secretary Copeland pulled the plug on Mike Carrillo’s sweet deal. Carrillo was directed to work a full 40-hour week and any overtime will have to be approved in advance and documented.

“We want folks to have confidence in our systems so we’ve changed that so that it’s not anymore him simply claiming he’s working extra hours. Now we know because he does it here in the office,” Copeland told News 13.

extra-work-paid

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Email from Cabinet Secretary Ward -Subject Extra Hours Worked
Email from Cabinet Secretary Ward -Subject Extra Hours Worked

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