Colorado Department of Transportation - CDOT Gave Improper Bonuses To Top Managers
DENVER — The state’s top transportation official gave his managers bonuses despite state rules that prohibit performance payments to the highly paid officials, a CALL7 investigation found.
In 2008, Colorado Department of Transportation Executive Director Russ George gave bonuses of about $2,500 each to more than a dozen managers who are under senior executive service contracts. Those contracts prohibit payments above the compensation stated in the contract.“Was it wrong? Yes. Has it been corrected? Yes,” said state Department of Personnel and Administration Executive Director Rich Gonzales, whose office notified CDOT that the payments were improper. “I think he thought he was doing the right thing by awarding those extra dollars.”
DPA caught the error after CALL7 investigators and other media asked for information about bonuses paid to state employees.
George conceded that he made a mistake and should have know about rules prohibiting the bonus payments.”The staff didn’t do anything wrong as far as they knew … the mistake was mine,”George said. “I didn’t know that rule, or if I ever knew I didn’t remember it. And I should have known it. And I shouldn’t have paid the bonuses.”George said he was just trying to give top managers, who each make more than $120,000 a year, the same percentage bonuses as he gave the rest of the staff who had outstanding performances reviews.”I work with them every day and I see the outstanding performance.” George said.But sources inside CDOT said the bonuses angered the rank and file employees because they believed George was trying to slip the bonuses under the radar.”I think it would be a very sensitive issue when this came out and was exposed that this had been done,” Gonzales said.”There are employees of CDOT (who) believe senior executive staff that got caught with their hand in the cookie jar. Is that fair?” asked CALL7 Investigator Tony Kovaleski.”No,” George said. “The truth is how we did it. We were trying to match the same salary increases that the rest of the employees were getting. That’s all there is to it.”In August, George informed the SES staffers that they would have to return the bonus money paid last year.”Oh, it was terribly unpleasant,” George said. “It was one of the worst things I have had to do in my career of managing others. My mistake, my fault. They’re the ones who had to pay it back.”