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City could ditch its time clock

Discrepancies have caused past disputes

MOUNT CARROLL – A Mount Carroll alderman might have figured out a way to end a controversy over payroll records: Get rid of the time clock.

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Alderman Tom Charles made the recommendation. No vote was taken.

For the past few years, a minority of council members have pointed to discrepancies between time clock records and employees’ written timecards. Two of those members, Nina Cooper and Doris Bork, have since lost their bids for re-election. The other, Bob Sisler, remains.

Sauk Valley Media examined some of the disputed records in 2012. On three days in January and February 2011, for instance, one employee wrote on his timecard that he had worked overtime – for a total of 2.5 hours – which the time clock didn’t show. On Dec. 5, 2010, the clock showed an employee worked 5.75 hours, but he wrote on his timecard that he had logged 4 hours of overtime.

The issue has sparked passions.

After the city clerk let Bork and Cooper examine payroll records in 2011, Mayor Carl Bates announced he wouldn’t allow council members to go into City Hall to look at records without his permission.

He also asked the council members to provide the copy of their notes from the day they looked at the documents.

In an interview Tuesday, Charles said the removal of the time clock would help to heal the city after the controversy over payroll records. He said the city would go with written timecards instead – the same system used in Carroll County.

“We have to trust the people we work with. If you empower them to do a good job, they will,” Charles said. “These employees do a good job. They work hard. They have been mistreated by council members in the past.”

Besides, he said, when employees respond to emergencies, it makes little sense to go to the time clock first.

Sisler, however, favors the time clock over written time sheets.

“I see a couple of [employees] come in late regularly, but their handwritten sheets reflect the full 8 hours,” he said. “How can the due diligent use of a time clock cause problems? The cover-up is what caused the problems.”

As for the employees responding to emergencies, Sisler said his issue was with regular days in which workers show up late but indicate they work full shifts.

Charles said the public rejects the criticism of city employees.

“In the 2011 election, I knocked on 150 doors,” he said. “Of everyone I talked to, no one doubted the city crew.”

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