When government employees are suspected of workplace misconduct, they are routinely placed on paid administrative leave while internal investigations are conducted, and the result can be costly to taxpayers.
For example, a recent Government Accountability Office study — first reported by The Washington Post in October — found that between 2010 and 2013, some 57,000 federal workers had been placed on paid leave for a month or more at a cost surpassing $775 million.
In some cases, employees are “exonerated,” but the financial toll remains.
An analysis of records by The Times found Hall County and the city of Gainesville each paid more than $20,000 over the last two fiscal years to employees placed on paid leave.
While paid leave was used for medical reasons in a few instances, or to prepare termination agreements, most related to internal investigations about the workplace conduct of public safety personnel.
For example, a Gainesville police officer was placed on paid leave for more than two months in 2013 at a cost of more than $10,000 while internal affairs investigated reports the officer violated department policy regarding strip searches, as well as other misconduct.
According to records, the officer was ultimately given a written reprimand and suspended for nine days.
Eleven different city employees received paid leave during the 2013 and 2014 fiscal years, the majority from within the police department as a result of internal investigations, at a total cost of $22,257.
In Hall County, 24 employees received paid leave during the same time frame, the majority from the sheriff’s office and fire department as a result of internal investigations related to conduct, at a total cost of $20,640. Some cases resulted in terminations.
The average duration of paid leave for these county employees was 48 hours, or about six eight-hour workdays.
City employees were placed on paid leave for between a few days and a few weeks, on average.
City and county human resources officials said departments are directed to use paid leave sparingly and to conduct internal investigations thoroughly but without excessive delay.
“All department directors are cautioned to use paid administrative leave only when absolutely necessary due to an investigation or inquiry,” said Gainesville Human Resources Director Janeann Allison.
Hall County Human Resources Director Bill Moats said he intends to review the county’s paid administrative leave policy to ensure it is implemented in the most efficient manner possible.
“Do we need something more specific? Yeah,” he said.
Moats said potential changes could include back-paying employees who are placed on administrative leave while investigations into their conduct are performed, rather than paying their salary upfront while they’re off the job.