Investigators: Ferry system fails to hold cheating employee accountable

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by SUSANNAH FRAME / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @SFrameK5

KING5.com

Posted on May 24, 2010 at 11:08 PM

KINGSTON, Wash. - Jack Nannery is a committed baseball coach. He's so committed at times he skips out on his job with Washington State Ferries to take care of business at his other job. He’s a volunteer assistant baseball coach for the Kingston High School Buccaneers. Nannery has worked as a carpenter for the ferry system for 30 years. Most of the time his job is to make repairs at different ferry terminals around the sound.

But the KING 5 Investigators have obtained photos of Nannery at the field, not at the terminals, on state time during the 2008 baseball season.  On March 21, 2008, he put in for work completed at the Mukilteo ferry terminal. But there’s a photo showing him warming up with the team and coaching at an away game in Gig Harbor.

A week later his timesheet says he made repairs at the Keystone terminal. But a photograph shows him coaching first base at a game in Bremerton that day.

The next month, the state paid him to work at the Point Defiance terminal in Tacoma.  That doesn't add up. A photo shows him getting off the team bus for a match-up against the North Mason Bulldogs on Hood Canal.

The year those pictures were taken, Washington State Auditor Brian Sonntag assigned two investigators to look into Jack Nannery. The question: Was he cheating taxpayers by fudging on his timesheets?

Nannery argued he was perfectly legit. He said he routinely adjusted his schedule - used “flex time” - to make it to the games after an 8-hour day.

The auditors didn't buy it. In May 2009 the Auditor’s Office issued this report that stated, "We found reasonable cause to believe an improper governmental action occurred.” It also said that even if he did shift his schedule around, it "wouldn't account for the total time in question."

Sonntag says when his office issues this kind of report, it’s a serious matter.

"At least be on the job for the hours you're being paid. I don't think that's too much to ask. If you are fudging on timesheets, or equipment or vacation or use of computers, you are stealing from the public," said Sonntag.

The auditors found more. They confiscated Nannery’s laptop and found he was using his state computer, on state time, to check out all things baseball: scores, stats, schedules, rankings and rosters. The evidence showed he spent hours at work, working on baseball.

"I think individually you can look at any one of these things and say oh, not that big of a deal, but compounded it is a big deal. I think any time you are stealing from the public or abusing that trust that is indeed a big deal and I take that very seriously," said Sonntag.

We tried to arrange an interview with Jack Nannery. He declined. We caught up with him before a baseball practice last week and attempted to get answers. He told us he’s in the clear. 

"I've done nothing wrong," said Nannery.

When asked about the findings from the State Auditor’s Office he said that’s not relevant anymore. 

“That was all adjudicated by the state. I paid the penalty for it and I moved on. Thank you,” said Nannery.

The investigation by KING 5 revealed Nannery was in hot water at the ferry system well before the State Auditor’s report last year.  He was suspended for a week for yelling profanities at co-workers.  His state vehicle was yanked after he was seen driving it to sporting events.  And he was even fired at one point.

Paul Kressin, now retired from State Ferries, is the one who fired Nannery in the early 1990s for “falsification of time records.” He said Nannery was charging the state for work that didn’t happen.

“I felt strong enough that I wanted to terminate his employment. It’s not a good practice to have somebody doing that. It causes other people to look at that and say, ‘Gee, if he can get away with that then I can, too,” said Kressin.

Nannery grieved the termination through his union and won his job back. An arbitrator ruled the state didn't have “clear and convincing” evidence of wrongdoing. We asked the Secretary of Transportation, Paula Hammond, about the case last week.

"When we lose in those situations it frustrates all of us because we don't tolerate that kind of cheating," said Hammond.

But when Nannery was caught cheating by the State Auditor’s Office 15 years later, State Ferries Maintenance Manager Vern Day and Director of Vessel Maintenance Paul Brodeur gave him a one-week suspension and about a dollar-an-hour demotion in pay. Both of them declined to be interviewed for this report.

Director of Washington State Ferries David Moseley did answer questions posed by KING TV. When asked why the punishment wasn’t tougher after the auditor’s report, he said the findings didn’t support more severe discipline.

“Mr. Nannery had a clean record from 1997 until a SAO report in 2009 found that he had falsified timesheets and used government property for personal use.  Following this investigation we suspended and demoted Mr. Nannery. We did not believe the SAO report was strong enough to warrant termination,” said Moseley.

Recently the KING 5 Investigators have discovered that Nannery’s timesheets are still fishy. Payroll records obtained by KING show when the 2010 baseball season started, Nannery started calling in sick. The state paid him for sick time on days he was healthy enough to go to the ball field to work with the team.

Ferry system managers didn’t realize this until they were notified by KING. Director Moseley said they are now researching this issue.

“Recently, we reviewed Mr. Nannery’s timesheets, which raise concerns. We have begun an investigation and will take appropriate disciplinary action should it be determined that there is misconduct,” said Moseley.

"I'm disgusted. This is ridiculous that someone can come back, perpetuate the same thing he did and still work there,” said Kressin. “I can't believe the money that's wasted on deals like this. It's unbelievable."

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