State Auditor Beth A. Wood says the state Ferry Division should reduce employee overtime costs and stop violating its rules on hiring employees' relatives, but her 20-page audit report finds no support for the charges of waste, nepotism and abuse leveled by Harold "Buddy" Finch last year when he was fired after 55 days as the ferry director.
Auditors found 13 ferry employees working alongside or under supervision of family members at the same location or shift. That violates state rules against one relative overseeing the work of another, as well as more strict DOT rules against family members working on the same boat or in the same office.
But the report did not confirm Finch's charges that employees' time cards were approved by relatives, that employees worked excessive overtime to increase their pay, and that ferry managers made questionable purchases. A DOT spokesman said the department agreed with the findings and had implemented some of its recommendations.
"They did find that no one had broken the law and while there were policies that weren't adhered to, we had put changes in place already to make the organization run better," said Greer Beaty, DOT spokeswoman.
Finch, fired in June 2010, is fighting DOT in a wrongful termination lawsuit filed last September in Wake Superior Court. He scoffed at the auditor's findings and said Wood had ignored serious evidence of wrongdoing and mismanagement.
"I read the audit, and it says nothing," Finch said by phone from his home in Currituck County. "They didn't address the real questions."
Many ferry workers rack up long overtime hours on a schedule of four 12-hour days one week followed by three 12-hour days the next. That gives them 40 hours at regular pay and 8 hours on overtime the first week, and 36 hour regular pay the second week. Scheduled overtime pay added up to $930,000 last year.
Wood suggested DOT could reduce overtime costs with a schedule of three 12-hour days and one six-hour day each week, and by developing a pool of temporary workers who could fill in to keep regular employees for working overtime hours.
Beaty said DOT will consider these and other suggestions as it adjusts to reduced spending levels and other constraints in the new state budget.
DOT has not had a permanent ferry director since Finch was fired 13 months ago.