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More documents, allegations emerge in Battle Creek overtime flap

Updated: Friday, January 10, 2014 |
More documents, allegations emerge in Battle Creek overtime flap story image
BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - After the Newschannel 3 I-Team looked into allegations of time card fraud in Battle Creek's City Hall, the City Manager is calling foul.

Last week, the I-Team reported that the Department of Labor is investigating allegations from employees that their time cards are being deliberately changed to save money.

Thursday night, the I-Team uncovered an email sent by the City Manager to all Battle Creek employees.

In it, he says his comments were "misrepresented" in order to "sensationalize" the story.

Since the email, more Battle Creek employees have come forward with documentation to support their claims.

It's typically a matter of about 10 minutes, they say, usually in the morning or possibly after lunch, but they say it easily adds up to a couple of hours a week.

And even at $8 per hour, that's more than $1,000 per year for each employee.

They say they're sick of it, and that's why they went to the Department of Labor.

They all say the same thing: they're "required to be in early" to prepare for their shifts, but when they enter the actual start time, they find their supervisor "scratched it off" their time card.

"If that's the case, we need to make sure that doesn't happen unless there is truly an error in the time card to begin with," said Battle Creek City Manager Ken Tsuchiyama last week, when first asked about the allegations.

It was at that time when he told Newschannel 3 that the allegations were first brought to his attention around 3 weeks prior.

Internal correspondence obtained by the I-Team, however, indicates that whether City Manager Tsuchiyama knew it or not, overtime increments being being recorded incorrectly has been an issue since at least last winter.

But in no way does it prove fraud.

"In my mind, that means that we are going back and changing an employee's, someone is changing an employee's time card," Tsuchiyama said.

A notice from Battle Creek Employee Services explains employees must be paid for every tenth of an hour, or as little as four minutes on the clock, but employees tell Newschannel 3 that the treasurer ignored that.

They provided an email sent from the Treasurer exclusively to employees in the Treasury and Water Billing Departments, saying "tenths should not show up on the time cards."

So, employees stopped coming in ten minutes early as ordered, because they weren't being paid for it.

But they claim, "when you come in just a couple of minutes early, she writes you up for being late."

We called several Battle Creek city commissioners, as well as the Mayor, looking for comment on the story, but it was after 5:00 p.m., and we haven't heard back from any of them at this time.

We left a voicemail for City Manager Tsuchiyama, who replied by email. He said in part:

"I don't know what you're hearing from employees, but until we have things in final form from the (Department of Labor), I really have no comment.

"Sorry you found my email message to employees disappointing, but I obviously was, and am, disappointed with your report," he added.

To see our full interview with City Manager Tsuchiyama, click here.
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