FRANKFORT, KY (WAVE) - When Kentucky state government accused social worker Shannon Bower of claiming overtime she did not work, she then got paid not to work for more than four months, collecting more than $10,000. She also had photos of herself on her state laptop that were a problem.
Administrative specialists Scarlet Perry and Dawna King also collected more than four months of paid leave totaling more than $10,000 after having sex with a jail inmate multiple times in a janitor's closet.
Social service counselor Gerri Mesmer collected more than $14,000 on four-and-a-half months paid leave for allegedly having sex several times with a juvenile she counseled after driving him to places like GameStop and Taco Bell.
State park manager Phillip Gray was on paid leave for more than four-and-a-half months, collecting more than $15,000, after admitting failure to replace "no swimming" warning signs at a park where someone then drowned.
And conservation officer Dennis Sharon was paid $28,000 to stay home for ten months after being accused of illegal commercial fishing and selling fish eggs on the side.
Those details are from six cases WAVE 3 requested to review in connection with its investigation of the practice of paying state workers not to work in Kentucky. Most of the workers in the six cases we reviewed collected 'investigative' paid leave while they were under investigation, and then 'administrative' paid leave after they were notified they were fired.
"It's discretionary. Not everyone uses it," said Legal Services Director Dinah Bevington. "But in instances where they've already been on investigative leave, there's been some sort of misconduct, and in these instances it is probably most appropriate for administrative leave to also be used."
"I think it leaves a bad taste in everybody's mouth. It does in mine," said Democratic State Representative Tom Burch of Louisville after reviewing our findings. "It just seems like we should work on a plan that benefits taxpayers because taxpayers shoulder this burden."
Bevington said they were put on paid leave instead of assigned to a desk job or some other work because there was no other work they could do in their situations.
"This process is here to protect not only our state employees and their rights but also to protect the public," Bevington said.
"We have an unemployment problem. We have social services problems, so many things we have to spend money on," said Republican State Representative Julie Raque Adams after reviewing our findings.
"We can't spend our taxpayers dollars on things like this when we have so many other things we need to focus on."
Over the past two years, the state paid a total of 158 executive branch employees not to work. Sixty percent of them were on paid leave more than a month. Thirty percent were paid not to work for more than two months. By our calculations, the total taxpayer cost came to $677,774.