State workers raise concerns over spot bonuses

Indicted man among bonus recipients

INDIANAPOLIS - Some state employees are raising concerns about the state's spot bonus program, Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney reported, saying the process appears arbitrary.

The workers, who did not want to be identified for fear of losing their jobs, contacted Kenney after the Call 6 Investigators ran a story earlier this week about the Governor Mike Pence administration doling out nearly $1 million in spot bonuses since he took office.

A state employee pointed out Mark Harsley, who was federally indicted last year, received a $250 spot bonus.

Harsley was employed with the Department of Workforce Development starting in 2010, and he was paid his spot bonus on Jan. 2, 2013.

He was indicted for allegedly engaging in a fraudulent scheme with Reggie Walton involving a city of Indianapolis mowing contract.

The federal government alleges that Walton solicited gifts, payments and other kickbacks in exchange for the contract with Harsley.

Harsley resigned July 27, 2013, and he was indicted months later on Dec. 11, 2013.

State personnel department spokeswoman Ashley Hungate said she did not have the specifics surrounding Harsley's bonus.

"In general, DWD awards spot bonuses to reward high performers who save the state money and/or provide great customer service," Hungate wrote in an email to RTV6.

According to records obtained by Kenney, more than 3,000 state workers received the bonuses, ranging from $50 to $2,000 each.

The total spent on spot bonuses under Pence to date is $935,195.31.

Other state workers pointed out to Kenney that some agencies do not give out spot bonuses, like Indiana State Police.

"Agency heads have the discretion to award an on-the-spot bonus any time they see fit," Hungate wrote in an email to Kenney. "The awards typically range from $100 to $1,000. Not all agencies take advantage of this, but many do."

The spot bonuses are paid first by the specific agency. The agency is then reimbursed from the Personnel Services Contingency Fund, which is a general fund appropriation, Hungate said.

Spot bonuses are different than the one-time performance bonuses announced for state employees on Dec. 20, 2013.

The one-time performance bonuses are based on evaluations, which were completed in January.

"Employees who meet expectations will receive a $500 bonus, those who exceed expectations will receive $750 and those rated outstanding will receive $1,000," read a news release about the performance bonuses.

A Feb.  4 memo from ISP Superintendent Doug Carter said there will be a lump sum bonus for Indiana State Police employees that are currently at the maximum of their respective pay matrix.

"Matrix employees that are currently at or beyond the maximum years in the matrix are eligible for this bonus: the amount of the lump sum bonus is $500, the lump sum bonus will be awarded on the anniversary date," read the memo from Carter. "Matrix employees that are below the maximum years in the matrix are not eligible for this bonus. Those employees will receive their regular step increase on their anniversary date."

The spot bonus program was established under Gov. Mitch Daniels in 2006, but numbers were not available to RTV6 as to what was spent under the Daniels administration on spot bonuses.

Agencies who gave out spot bonuses under Pence include the Department of Administration, Department of Corrections, Department of Child Services and the Department of Transportation.

Hungate said under Daniels, the spot bonus program continued even during the years where pay for performance increases were not given to continue to award those employees who performed an extraordinary task.

"Many of these tasks have a money saving impact," Hungate said.

Kenney asked Pence's office to comment on the spot bonus program in light of Pence's recent announcement to make budget cuts and reduce a $141 million shortfall.

The office directed Kenney to Hungate.

"Under the leadership of Gov. Pence, we have continued the program," Hungate wrote in an email to RTV6. "We appreciate the dedication of our many employees around the state and support a program that provides additional recognition to state employees who go above and beyond in their service to Hoosiers."
A letter sent from Pence to state employees at the end of 2013 read: "While our present circumstances do not permit us to increase base pay, because your service to Indiana has been exemplary, I have authorized a bonus that you will receive once performance evaluations are completed in January."

The 2014 performance bonuses haven't been finalized yet, Hungate said.

More resources: See the list of employees who received spot bonuses | Read the email sent to state employees from Gov. Pence

Follow Kara Kenney on Twitter: @karakenney6 | Facebook: KaraKenneyNews

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