Former WSU staff lied about paid work



Phil Weiler, vice president of marketing and communications at WSU, discusses Workday which is the new financial management software that WSU plans to use to combat fraud, during an interview on Thursday afternoon in the Lighty French Administration Building.

JAKOB THORINGTON, Former Evergreen reporter

Former WSU employees misreported and received more than $12,000 in unearned wages between 2014 and 2019.

The Washington State Auditor’s Office published a report on Feb. 10 indicating four cases of WSU employees reporting inaccurate leaves of absence and time worked, totaling to the misappropriation of $12,238.55

Phil Weiler, WSU vice president of marketing and communications, said employees and supervisors involved did the right thing by noticing something was wrong and reporting it. 

“We never want someone to commit fraud but if there is some kind of inappropriate behavior that is taking place employees need to be empowered to report that,” he said. 

The auditor’s office recommended WSU strengthen its oversight and monitoring of the reporting and use of leave balances.  

One way the university will do that is with the implementation of a program called Workday, Weiler said. Workday is a financial management and resource software vendor. 

He said the university has been working on implementing this program for the last year and a half as part of the Modernization Initiative. Its expected arrival is July 1.

“It’s kind of sad that we’re excited that we’re getting a new finance and human resources package but it’s been such a long time coming,” he said. 

Workday will make requests for absences of leave more formal, Weiler said. Supervisors will have to approve them by looking at the number of hours an employee has allocated for vacation time, which is tracked by the software.

The current finance and resource software has been around since the 1980s, he said. 

“It is three or four generations out of what would be considered current best practices,” he said.

Former College of Nursing Dean Joyce Griffin-Sobel misreported leaves of absence multiple times between April 2016 and June 2018, according to the report. She served as dean from 2016-2019. She resolved the discrepancies upon her departure by correcting her leave balance.  

All the employees in the audit report are no longer working at the university, Weiler said. It was not acceptable for people to lie and get paid for the work they did not do, he said. They plan on getting money back from two employees who still owe the university.  

The College of Veterinary Medicine fired an employee for abandonment of post on Dec. 29, 2018. The employee was overpaid $6,448.56 from November 2017 and November 2018 by claiming hours not worked. 

Two employees in the School of Music were overpaid by a total of $2,895.61 between August 2014 and February 2018 by claiming hours not worked. One employee has paid the money back and the other is paying through a payment plan to the university. 

A University Advancement employee resigned from WSU after being overpaid $2,894.38 for claiming hours that weren’t worked between March 2018 and February 2019. 

Along with Workday, supervisors will have to continue to be trained to avoid another incident like this, Weiler said. 

“Every supervisor has to sign his or her employees’ time-off and leave sheets,” he said. “If they weren’t checking it, then that’s a problem.”

The story has been updated to clarify that Dean Joyce Griffin-Sobel resolved the discrepancies of her leave balance. Some of Phil Weiler’s grafs were also updated.