The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors received and approved a lengthy update Tuesday on the ongoing transition of payroll services from the Office of the Auditor-Comptroller. During the nearly two-hour discussion, Humboldt County Auditor-Comptroller Karen Paz Dominguez gave a detailed presentation on existing challenges surrounding payroll transition and her department, as well as opportunities for growth. future.
The transition of payroll services from the human resources department to the auditor-comptroller’s office, which began in September 2021, was fraught with errors, including “delayed and inaccurate direct deposits, system failures and other process delays,” according to staff. report.
The board voted unanimously late last year to move the monthly payroll update to a departmental item rather than a consent agenda item to increase cross-departmental communication and has requested that the auditor-comptroller’s office work with the county administration office to ensure that payroll and other functions in the department were on track.
According to a progress report attached to the agenda of the board of directors of Sacramento-based accounting firm Macias Gini O’Connell, or MGO, the county has experienced “numerous technological challenges” that have impacted the ability of departments to complete their tasks in a timely manner.
“These technology challenges in particular had a significant impact on AC operations, causing additional operational challenges and impacts to workflow, timelines and morale across the county,” the progress report states. “…We recommend the county prioritize addressing these technology issues and developing solutions to mitigate the impacts to improve workflows across the county.”
Paz Dominguez described the following ongoing payroll processing challenges:
- Staff capacity;
- Sudden and immediate problems that require redundant work;
- Inconsistent network and system availability;
- Complicated scorecard approval processes in some departments;
- Board actions that require immediate or rapid implementation (COVID, declared disasters, memorandums of understanding);
- Incomplete executive setup resulting in confusion of employee/timer assignments;
- Poor communication on timelines, deadlines, process;
- Expectation of urgent services and urgent assurance of additional payments/settlement.
Since the payroll transition began in September 2021, Paz Dominguez noted that 52 audit items have been marked as complete or not required by the county’s external auditor, CliftonLarsonAllen LLP. Outstanding items include:
- Bank reconciliation (MGO assistance);
- Tax receivable (MGO assistance);
- Letter of Dispute from County Attorney and Risk Management;
- Fortuna Fire Protection District Audited Financial Statements;
- Schedule of installation charges for passengers;
- Census data.
On Tuesday morning, Paz Dominguez said there were more than 2,000 bills in the county’s system “at some point in approval.”
“Of these 2,009 invoices, 1,211 were awaiting approval at the departmental level, 798 were awaiting approval at the office of the auditor-controller. The auditor-comptroller’s office, at the moment, has 40% of the invoices pending,” she said. “The oldest bill in our queue has a bill date of August 21, 2021. If that’s all you know, you might think our office has had this bill since August 2021. … This bill ( was) submitted to the auditor-inspector. payment office (on) January 13, 2022. That was 19 days ago and there were no rejections.
Paz Dominguez said it took up to 174 days for a county department to process an invoice. “How long did the auditor-controller’s office last?” Thirty-two days,” she said. On average, it takes county departments 36 days to process an invoice, 11 days for the auditor-comptroller’s office and 49 days for the county as a whole, she added.
Second District Supervisor Michelle Bushnell inquired about MGO’s role in settling bank reconciliations, which Paz Dominguez said had never been done before her time. “I swear it under oath. … It was kind of a reconciliation, but it wasn’t really a reconciliation between the bank and the general ledger.
Humboldt County Treasurer-Collector John Bartholomew rebuffed the Comptroller’s claim.
“I know personally that the auditor-comptroller staff used to go through every bank statement we received monthly, compare it daily to the treasurer, and then make sure everything was reflected correctly in the general ledger. “, did he declare. “Maybe it didn’t include all bank accounts – because there were other bank accounts, I realize – but in terms of the main bank account that the county uses for all transactions made .”
“You don’t have to agree, I already know that we don’t have bank reconciliations,” Paz Dominguez said. “…I would be happy to do a deep dive. I can share this information with you and we will go over the bank account to show you what the bank reconciliations mostly look like. I’m sharing this with you not because I’m saying someone did something wrong, I’m saying it’s the reality right now.
Noting the “heavy” nature of payroll, Bushnell asked Paz Dominguez if taking over payroll services had negatively impacted her department and if she felt office duties had suffered from the transition. .
Yes and no, said Paz Dominguez.
“Where the office has suffered is how much attention I have to pay attention to because right now I’m acting as a payroll manager, as an IT support, as a “accounting systems analyst and as a payroll specialist. I work full-time on payroll because of the attention it requires and because it requires expertise in corporate finance,” he said. she said “When I say full time, I mean 40 hours straight on payroll. I’m still working on my other duties, but it makes me less available.”
She added that conditions continue to improve, especially with the help of MGO.
Bushnell introduced a motion to accept Paz Dominguez’s update and direct county staff to reassess payroll processing. Third District Supervisor Mike Wilson offered a second to the motion.
In public comments, county employee Neil Bost criticized the county for errors made during two consecutive pay periods in December 2021 and January 2022.
“For the first period, I did not receive my full payment until 10 days after the error. During this time, I had several bills that were due that I could not pay in full. I was forced to borrowing money from friends and family just to keep my checking account from being overdrawn,” he said. “… It goes without saying that it left me very frustrated. one of the reasons I chose to work for the county was a sense of stability and consistency.I no longer associate the county job with those attributes.
Bost noted that “mistakes happen”, but said the way errors were corrected “left (him) feeling undervalued and disrespected”.
“To date, I have not received an apology or acknowledgment of wrongdoing or any communication whatsoever from any of the responsible parties,” he added. “…I sincerely hope this never happens again.”
Following public comment, Virginia Bass, 4th District Supervisor and Council Chairperson, emphasized the need for council members and county department heads to address these employee and constituent concerns.
After further discussion among supervisors, the board ultimately approved Bushnell’s motion by a unanimous 5-0 vote.
Isabella Vanderheiden can be reached at 707-441-0504.