The city’s controversial personnel director, Michele Ralph-Rawls, who has been on the job for nine months, has been working from home, according to municipal records released in response to a records request.
Ralph-Rawls (pictured) worked from home on April 4, 2019, according to records. She worked from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Municipal officials said the city does not have a policy allowing employees to work from home. Ralph-Rawls’ predecessor, Abbey Levenson, departed the city last year, after she was rebuked by acting mayor Jane Williams-Warren for working from home. Members of the City Council condemned the practice at the time.
Levenson was approved to telecommute by former business administrator Nellie Pou. It’s not clear who approved Ralph-Rawls to work from home.
Neither mayor Andre Sayegh nor his chief of staff responded to a series of questions sent via email last week.
“You are there to monitor and to run the department. How can you run it from home?” said councilman Flavio Rivera, chairman of the finance and personnel committee, last week.
Ralph-Rawls did not return a call for comment.
Ralph-Rawls has found herself at the center of multiple controversies since being hired in Sept. 2018 for $84,000. Less than a month into her new job, she signed off on giving herself a 7-percent longevity pay increase. The increase was later scrapped.
Moreover, Ralph-Rawls took three sick days in her second week on the job and was paid for them contrary to municipal sick time pay policies. Sayegh defended paying her for the sick days in January by stating she had the flu and goes “above and beyond” in performing her duties.
Critics at the time said Sayegh is being overly generous with taxpayer’s money.
She was later found failing to use the city’s biometric time tracking system. She continues to not fully use the system, according to government records. She also has difficulty coming to work on time.
‘The personnel director should be setting an example for the rest of the staff by using the time tracking system,” said councilman William McKoy.
“You got somebody that’s leading a department that should lead by example and they are not,” added councilman Luis Velez.
“There were rumors the personnel director would not show up until 10,11,12 o’clock,” said Rivera. Ralph-Rawls inconsistent use of the finger print clock in and clock out system bears out the rumors. “Why does she refuse to use the time clock?”
The work day starts at 8:30 a.m. in Paterson. For example, on May 8 she clocked in at 1:21 p.m. and on May 15, she clocked in at 10:36 a.m.
Ralph-Rawls reported to work on time just four days between Jan. and May, 2019, according to records.
“I think the mayor should send a strict memoranda as the chief executive that everybody from the business administrator to the public relations officer of the city need to go by the policy of the city,” said Velez.
Ralph-Rawls wasn’t alone in failing to consistently use TimeTrak, the biometric clock in and clock out system. Sayegh’s law director Khalifah L. Shabazz and economic development director Michael Powell continue to bypass the system used to track work hours.
Sayegh had promised to fix the problem five months ago, but that hasn’t happened. It’s a simple fix, said Velez. For months, many of Sayegh’s critics have said he is spending too much time on ribbon cuttings and press conferences and too little on governing.