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I-Team: Battle Creek facing more overtime allegations
BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - The Newschannel 3 I-Team is learning the City of Battle Creek will soon be writing hundreds of checks to its employees for back pay.
Over the summer, we broke the news that the Department of Labor was investigating Battle Creek's payroll practices.
They ruled the city had been paying overtime to its firefighters incorrectly for decades.
Now, Battle Creek and its firefighters are locked in litigation over back pay.
Since then, the DOL has opened its investigation to every Battle Creek city department, and now it appears the city will have to open the checkbook again.
There are approximately 370 active, hourly Battle Creek employees who could be receiving checks, plus anyone who has retired in the last two years.
Sources inside the city estimate the total payout will be in the low six figures for errors in overtime payment.
Thursday night, however, we also learned that there are also allegations of not payroll errors, but payroll fraud.
City Manager Ken Tsuchiyama says he learned of the latest payroll errors just before the holidays.
"If we're making mistakes, we're not willfully making them," he said. "If there's things we need to correct we're happy to correct them."
Thursday night, Battle Creek Employee Services assured us payroll corrections have been made to address the errors in overtime pay.
The Department of Labor says Battle Creek's payroll practices have been short changing hourly employees for years.
And now there are new, more serious allegations of payroll fraud coming from hourly employees inside City Hall.
Employees have told us and DOL investigators their time cards were consistently manipulated to reflect later start times.
"If that's the case we need to make sure that you know that doesn't happen unless there is truly an error in the time card to begin with," Tsuchiyama said.
Time cards are handled by the City Treasurer's office.
We contacted the Battle Creek City Treasurer Thursday afternoon to ask about these allegations.
She directed us to the City Manager's office.
Tsuchiyama says the Department of Labor is handling time card tampering allegations and no action will be taken until that investigation is complete.
As for the back payment due to hourly workers, Battle Creek Employee Services Director Russ Claggett says the city is supposed to have a final figure from the Department of Labor in seven to ten days.