By: Robin Ford Wallace, Reporter
Executive Chairman Ted Rumley confirmed on Thursday that Jennifer Hodnick, the
county payroll clerk who drew the attention of auditors, citizens and the local
press with the fluctuating and apparently quite generous salary checks she
wrote herself, had resigned her job the day before.
not comment on whether the county had been planning to fire the compromised
employee under its own steam but he did say: “We were setting up a meeting with
her anyway around 9 or 10 o’clock that same day but it didn’t happen. She did resign.”
He said the
meeting was to have included District 3 Commissioner Robert Goff as well as the
county attorney, Robin Rogers, the same parties present at earlier meetings
concerning the employee’s fate. In February, that consortium had agreed to
suspend the clerk for two weeks without pay after auditors wrote in the
“management points” connected with their financial report: “During our review
of salary expenditures, we noted several salary changes for the payroll clerk
throughout the fiscal year with no documentation.”
Hodnick’s salary was $42,372.99 per annum, payable in 26 pay periods throughout
the year, but a review of her pay records shows bimonthly payments often padded
by $150 to $672 more than the math would account for.
The clerk has
declined to comment to the Sentinel about the disparities, and Rumley has
consistently taken no stand on her guilt or innocence. When a citizen stood up at
the Dade County Commission’s regular monthly meeting on March 7 to challenge
him about Ms. Hodnick’s continued employment, Rumley indicated she had been
retained on the county attorney’s advice.
He took the
same tack in the Thursday interview, specifying that his reliance on the county
attorney in this matter was not about protecting Ms. Hodnick from the press or
public – “We don’t do protection” – but about shielding the county from
potential legal liability.
And as to Ms.
Hodnick herself, he only commented: “When you work in an office like this,
regardless of what you do, you’re working in a political office.”
He said Ms.
Hodnick had not yet typed an official resignation letter to go into her
He said Ms.
Hodnick had been married the Thursday before, returned to work on Wednesday,
and given an emotional resignation before the official meeting could be held.
She had then cleaned out her desk and left and had not since delivered the
typed resignation, he said.
As to whether
he and the other commission office staff should have better safeguarded county
funds: “When you have an HR person and she does the payroll, that’s why that
person’s bonded, and you depend on that person,” said Rumley. “You have to
trust that person.”
But asked if
his office will try harder in the future to monitor payroll outlay, Rumley
replied, with some force: “No, we’re not going to try, we’re going to do it.”
He said no
criminal charges had been pressed against the clerk. Asked if any effort would
be made to induce her to pay the county any funds back, he said financial
records are being examined as far back as 2008. “We’ll come up with our figures
with Don [County Clerk Don Townsend], and then we’ll compare it with the
auditors’ and we’ll come up with a number,” he said.
As it stands,
though, he said, Ms. Hodnick is still technically owed for accrued vacation
time as well as about 180 hours of sick pay, though he believed she loses the
latter through her resignation. “Had she been terminated, it would be harder
for the county,” said Rumley.
Rumley said his
office would immediately beginning advertising for Ms. Hodnick’s replacement.
“It’ll be in next week’s paper, and if at all possible we’ll be hiring from
Dade County,” he said. “That’s a priority.”
The county auditors
will help the county select a candidate, he said.
Rumley took the opportunity of the March 14
interview to protest the Sentinel’s inference in last week’s edition that
matters Hodnick had been the subject of an executive, or closed-door, session,
at the March 7 commission meeting. His announcement then, to the effect that
the session would include discussion of property to be purchased or leased,
personnel, and records exempt from public records law, had been at the county
attorney’s insistence, said Rumley, and had had nothing to do with the payroll
clerk. “I guess it sounded like it did but it didn’t,” he said.
said, the commissioners had been discussing their strategy as to Dade’s
interest in Erlanger at Hutcheson, the county’s designated indigent care
provider. “I asked him why in the world we would go into executive session to
talk about the hospital,” he said. “He
said by law I had to read that.”
executive paused for a brief coughing fit – he was suffering from a lingering cold
– commented he should give up cigars, then quickly explained it was a joke and
he didn’t really smoke. “I’m a
politician,” he said. “I’m supposed to
be dishonest, smoke cigars and cuss a lot.”
reality, said Rumley, was that everything in his life, down to his computer
password, was an open book to the public. “There’s no secrets here,” he said.