Two resign amid UMass time-card probe

  • University of Massachusetts Amherst File photo—

  • University of Massachusetts Amherst File photo—

Staff Writer
Thursday, March 17, 2016

AMHERST – A second employee has resigned amid an investigation into time-card fraud and misuse of campus resources in the Physical Plant division at the University of Massachusetts, according to the university. 

The university would not release the names of the employees involved in the probe, but said Tuesday that it involves building maintenance with a focus on operations in its environmental services unit. 

In recent months, several maintenance foremen have been put on administrative leave and at least two have left employment with UMass, according to university records obtained by the Gazette through a public records request.  

UMass would not confirm whether any of these employees were put on leave in connection with the probe, however. 

“Given the departure of some employees, some reporting lines in Physical Plant have been revised and some positions remain unfilled,” said UMass spokesman Ed Blaguszewski. 

Three employees remain on administrative leave in connection with the investigation, he said. 

The university in February estimated the value of time and materials in question at approximately $50,000, a figure that has not changed as of this week, according to UMass. 

“The investigation is ongoing,” Blaguszewski said. “While we have no specific timetable, we hope to conclude this work in the coming months.” 

Three employees remain on administrative leave in connection with the investigation, he said. 

Blaguszewki said university police were involved in the early stages of the probe and that UMass could refer the matter to other regulatory authorities if warranted. 

“It’s an internal investigation,” he said. “We’re just not at that stage yet.” 

Andrew Mangels, vice chancellor of administration and finance, said in February that the probe began when “significant allegations” were brought to the university’s attention, and that university officials had “moved quickly to investigate and take action.”

Physical Plant is a division of Facilities & Campus Services with 600 employees and an annual budget of $42 million. It is responsible for the grounds, utilities, custodial services and building maintenance for nearly 7.6 million square feet of administrative, academic, and recreational space on the Amherst campus, according to its website. 

The five departments within the organization are alterations, building maintenance, buildings and grounds, sustainability and utilities. 

The university reported in February that it was pursuing several measures to ensure accountability as a result of its review, including pre-approval of overtime in advance by an assistant director of Physical Plant, a higher-than-normal level of management approval.

The university also reported that it is increasing tracking and accountability of time and attendance through time-card system upgrades, improved management review and approval of time card submissions.

 University officials said Physical Plant, whose administrative offices are at 360 Campus Center Way, also has improved accountability and management of materials at on-campus supply locations, and provided more stringent oversight to prevent the use of employee labor for non-university projects.

Dan Crowley can be reached at dcrowley@gazettenet.com.