Audit finds more than 1,000 state workers falsely claimed voting hours

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - A report released on Tuesday by State Auditor Mike Harmon looking at the use of election leave by state employees found abuses in the system.

The audit found there were 1,496 instances in which an employee claimed voting leave when records showed the employee was not entitled to it. The report identified 1,329 individuals involved, some of which had discrepancies in both the 2015 general and 2016 primary elections.

"It's very important that if people take election leave, and they receive pay for election leave, that they should, in fact, go vote," Harmon said.

According to the examination, 1,176 employees took paid election leave, but records indicated they didn't vote. The audit also showed some employees who claimed voting leave were not even registered to vote.

Some employees also claimed voting leave while on extended leave. According to state law, if an employee is claiming sick leave, Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), or leave without pay for an extended period, or they are not scheduled to work on election day, they are not entitled to voting leave. The 98 instances identified were all executive branch employees.

According to the audit, the state lost $102,807.50 in wages based on the false claims.

Harmon says he has turned his findings over to the Personnel Cabinet, the Secretary of State, and the State Board of Elections.

"We're asking them to take them very seriously. I mean, obviously these are a lot of dollars specifically for the personnel cabinet. We believe that if people take election leave and they actually get paid for it, they should actually go vote."

Harmon says he wants the Personnel Cabinet to better explain election leave to state workers, to prevent any future misuse of funds.

"It may add to a broader discussion on whether or not we should even have paid election leave."

Under Kentucky law, employers must allow employees up to four hours leave to vote during their regular work shift.

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