Friday October 04, 2002

Oakland janitors cashed in  

on fraudulent overtime 

OAKLAND — Fraudulent time cards from janitors made the Oakland School District pay as much as $150,000 in overtime that did not exist, an investigation has found. 

Peter Haffner, the district’s director of custodial services, found enough discrepancies on 2001 time cards that the district hired an investigator. 

The investigation shows that some custodians, whose base salaries are in the low-$30,000s, nearly doubled them through overtime. Some custodians submitted two time cards at once, claiming to be working in two schools at the same time, or reported to have worked more than 24 hours in one day, or when they where on vacation. 

The janitors under scrutiny represent 10 percent of the custodians. The district plans to fire six of them as well as their supervisor. Twelve have been suspended with pay. 

Janitors historically account for the bulk of the district’s annual overtime budget, because they are often called to guard construction projects overnight and open buildings for after-school meetings. Last year, the district spent $3 million in custodial overtime. 

To avoid this mistake now custodians will need approval from Haffner before working overtime. 

No one has been charged with a crime, but the Oakland Police Department is reviewing the case with the possibility of seeking felony theft of public funds charges from the Alameda County district attorney. 

State opts not to euthanize tiger that attacked boy 

Officials with the California Department of Fish and Game have elected not to euthanize a young tiger that attacked a 6-year-old boy during a school assembly in Scotts Valley last month. 

The department recently wrapped up its investigation into the Sept. 20 incident at Baymonte Christian School and determined that the tiger poses no serious threat to people and should not be put to death.  

The youngster was briefly hospitalized with two cuts to his head, but the cause of those wounds is still in question. 

Police and school officials said at the time of the incident that the tiger bit and scratched the boy, but Anita Jackson, the tiger's owner and handler said it was her belt buckle that scratched the boy when she jumped in to protect him.  

The 18-month-old tiger had also been de-clawed, Jackson added, so it could not have scratched the child. 

While the tiger narrowly avoided being put down, its handlers have been asked by the Department of Fish and Game to put together a formal plan on how they will control it in the future.