Report: Lt. Gov. chief of staff clocked salon trips as work time

Inadequate oversight and a lack of supervision allowed Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor's former chief of staff and an executive assistant to get paid for hours when they weren't in the office, according to an Ohio Inspector General's report released Tuesday.

The report notes hours when former chief of staff Laura Johnson claimed to be working but records suggest she was sometimes at a hair or nail salon. From July 2013 through May 2014, Johnson claimed 1,594 work hours though her car was in the state parking garage only half that time.

The timesheet of Johnson’s assistant, Heather Brandt, also listed hundreds of working hours when her car wasn’t at work.

The discrepancies came to light last year after a records request by the liberal website Plunderbund. Taylor referred the issue to the inspector general days after Johnson and Brandt were forced to resign.

Taylor told investigators she gave “some flexibility” to Johnson and Brandt due to “personal issues” each was facing, but both apparently were claiming to work out of the office more than she anticipated.

The investigation also found that when co-workers complained to Johnson that Brandt wasn’t coming to work, Johnson changed it so that Brandt and Johnson approved each other’s timesheets — and sometimes Brandt approved her own timesheets.

The inspector general suggested policy changes to better control timesheet approval.

“The lieutenant governor remains disappointed that flexibilities provided to an employee for family needs were abused,” said Taylor spokeswoman Bethany McCorkle in a statement Tuesday.

“As a former state auditor, she recognizes the need for accountability which is why she quickly alerted the Inspector General upon learning the scope of the problem and requested an independent review,” McCorkle said. “We appreciate the Inspector General’s recommendations and we have already started implementing similar ideas. We will continue to review his recommendations to see if there are stronger controls we can implement.”

The issue was referred to criminal prosecutors from Franklin County and the city of Columbus, who determined there was insufficient evidence to press charges, according to the report.

Taylor’s office says Johnson did reimburse the office $1,290.

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