The Department of Labor fired an employee for improperly handling a friend’s unemployment claim so the friend would receive extra pay, only to bring the former employee back to work months later.
DOL put Edward Lombard on paid administrative leave on Jan. 29, 2013. The next day, Lombardo filed a grievance. The department terminated him on Feb. 11.
A May 1, 2013, agreement allowed Lombardo to return to work “as soon as practical.” As part of the agreement, Lombardo dropped his grievance.
The time between Lombardo’s dismissal and return to work was re-categorized under the agreement as a “30-day disciplinary suspension without pay, with the remaining time recorded as an authorized leave without pay.”
Lombardo earned sick leave and time off as if he were still working during that time, according to the agreement.
“Mr. Lombardo acknowledges that DOL had just cause to dismiss him for violations of the agency’s Employee Conduct Policy which occurred when he improperly processed an unemployment insurance claim for a friend and former colleague,” the agreement says.
Auditors faulted the department for not bringing Lombardo’s fraud to their attention. “The agency failed to inform our office of this matter as required by law,” the Auditors of Public Accounts said in their report. “It also prevents our office from having the necessary information to determine whether appropriate steps are taken by the agency to deter fraudulent behavior and to determine whether such proper controls are in place to detect such fraud.”
A department spokeswoman declined to comment.
According to the auditors, Lombardo processed an emergency unemployment compensation claim for a friend and former department colleague “so that the claimant friend would be paid benefits at a higher rate.”
“The claimant was overpaid $159 per week for five weeks for a total of $795,” the report says. “The department discovered this irregularity in January 2013 and conducted an investigation.”
According to the auditors, the department also failed to recover the overpayment.
Lombardo returned to the department as a community service representative, the same job he had before being fired. He gave the department the ability to assign him to any location and gave up his ability to transfer to Hartford for five years.
The union agreed not to file a grievance on behalf of any employees who make a claim on the position the position given to Lombardo, a member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees social and human services bargaining unit, also known as P-2.
Lombardo agreed the state could dismiss him if he violated department policy again. He also acknowledged the “extra-contractual” arrangement was a “last chance agreement.”