Federal probe: Nevada housing authority owes $425,000 in back pay

A federal investigation into the Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority has uncovered thousands of dollars in wages owed to several dozen workers, a discovery that will cost the agency at least $425,000 in back pay.

U.S. Labor Department investigators found the agency failed to record and pay for pre- and post-shift hours worked by 77 current and former employees.

A statement issued by the department’s Las Vegas office blamed some of those violations on faulty record-keeping procedures.

Investigators also found housing officials liable for unlawfully exempting “white collar” employees from overtime, a misuse of a 76-year-old federal labor law provision that allows employers to exclude some upper level administrators from pay requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Housing agency officials will have to pay back each of those workers and foot the bill for beefed-up timekeeping and compliance procedures, federal officials said Wednesday.

Las Vegas Wage and Hour Division chief Gaspar Montanez said housing officials’ failure to pay out overtime counts those as the most glaring failure caught in the yearlong probe.

He added that payroll problems at the housing authority date back to at least 2011, though this is the first time his division has been called to look in on the agency.

“In every industry, employers choose not to pay their employees, for whatever reason,” Montandez said, “but we don’t do many investigations into government entities and we don’t want to revisit (the housing authority) again.

“It’s my hope that the training will be effective, but we’ll always be on the lookout.”

Montandez said officials could face further fines or sanctions if federally-mandated compliance training programs aren’t in place within the next few months.

The housing authority, which provides low-income housing to area families and is overseen by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, failed to return requests for comment Wednesday afternoon.

This counts as the agency’s second run-in with federal authorities in as many months.

An agencywide audit conducted by HUD officials in April found housing officials spent operating funds on bottled water and other ineligible expenses, all while failing to follow federal guidelines on reporting the purchases.

Auditors also dug up “significant deficiencies” in the authority’s inventory procedures, shortcomings that resulted in the loss of a dozen appliances valued at $5,500.

HUD regulators, like their counterparts in the Labor Department, recommended staff training improvements and an overhaul of the housing agency’s policies and procedures.

Contact James DeHaven at jdehaven@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3839. Find him on Twitter: @JamesDeHaven.

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