In the wake of a WPRI Channel 12 investigative story on Department of Public Works (DPW) Employees “buddy punching” time cards May 10, Mayor Scott Avedisian made public yesterday city videos showing an individual removing time cards and then returning them after they were presumably photographed or copied.
The mayor and DPW Acting Director David Picozzi also said all four men involved in the “buddy punching” were disciplined. It appears the Channel 12 report was based on the copied time cards.
“We had an issue where people were allegedly ‘buddy punching’ other employees of the water department in before 7 a.m., though they don’t get paid before seven,” said Avedisian. “We went back to look at what happened, checked the overtime and there was no overtime associated with those weeks in question.”
Picozzi elaborated and said that four water department employees report to DPW headquarters at 925 Sandy Lane around 6:15 every morning. They meet for morning coffee in the break room until starting their workday at seven, Picozzi said.
On three occasions, said Picozzi, one of the “numerous” DPW surveillance cameras that were installed at least four years ago revealed that one employee was, in fact, punching in three other workers. However, the other employees were standing in the same room in view of the camera when they were clocked in.
“Although we don’t encourage that, they were all present when they did that and we have brought them all in and talked to them saying that’s not allowed,” Picozzi said. “They said, ‘Gee, we didn’t think we were doing anything wrong. We knew the camera was there.’ We said, ‘That’s fine, but no more.’ There was discipline involved, but I won’t get into that.”
Picozzi also said, “These are guys that don’t call in sick and come to work early every single day. On the job, they are all outstanding workers.”
While Picozzi did not show video that revealed the “buddy punchers,” he did show surveillance of a former DPW employee who worked second shift for the water department remove and return the time cards in question.
The video reveals a man wearing a black baseball cap and dark sunglasses enter DPW at 9:30 a.m. March 23 and exit shortly after with time cards poking out from the back pocket of his pants. Then, the man met with what Picozzi believes is a gray Ford F150 in the parking lot before returning the time cards at 9:38 a.m.
“We assume that’s when they photographed [the time cards],” Picozzi said.
Moreover, Avedisian and Picozzi said they recently held a meeting with the individual who “borrowed” the time cards; however, it wasn’t particularly pleasant. They hoped to meet with him again to hear more of his side of the story but were unable to, as he was arrested and charged by Warwick Police for an armed robbery. He has been charged with three armed robberies, the mayor said.
“We have had no further conversation with him because he’s currently incarcerated and charged with three armed robberies of three gas stations in the city of Warwick,” Avedisian said. “We have to now wait to see how the case progresses and see if there are any additional charges added based on what’s going on here.”
Avedisian went on to say that the employee has self-terminated from the department because he failed to report to work for five consecutive days. The reason? He was incarcerated.
“The investigation will continue if we have a chance to talk to him,” Avedisian said. “If more comes out of this we will let you know.”