Timecard fraud prompts termination of Edinburg sanitation director

By: Valerie Gonzalez and Dave Hendricks

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EDINBURG – The City of Edinburg dismissed the director of sanitation in late December. Documents obtained by CHANNEL 5 NEWS indicate he was accused of time card fraud.

Sanitation Director Gabriel Salinas was dismissed from his job on Dec. 6, 2019. He was earning an annual salary to nearly $100,000 for a position created by the city mid-fiscal year 2018.

City records cite violations of the city's policies and procedures handbook related to timekeeping and code of ethics as grounds for Salinas' dismissal. According to the disciplinary action form, they found "patterns of fraud" in his time cards. A portion of the record reads:

"Mr. Salinas would have the department's timekeeper clock him in for the day and show up to the building hours later or not show up at all. On occasions during a pay period, Mr. Salinas would neglect to clock in and have the department's timekeeper override the daily entries to clock him in. On Thursday, October 24, 2019 Mr. Salinas stated on his time-sheet that he attended an HR Consortium Meeting in Brownsville. During the consortium our HR Director was attending and was part of the set up crew of the meeting. Throughout the meeting she did not notice Mr. Salinas throughout the meeting, and she has photos of the only Edinburg staff attending the consortium. On the time-sheet it reflects that Mr. Salinas was signed out to be attending the consortium. On the time-sheet it reflects that Mr. Salinas was signed out to be attending the consortium from 8AM to 4PM."

A handwritten addition at the end of the form indicates Salinas refused to hand over the phone after he was dismissed until after he cleared it.

Gilbert Enriquez, a council member in Edinburg, said he was opposed to the creation of the position in 2018. "Wow. I would hope accountability would take place," he said in reaction to the details of the termination.

Although the city dismissed Salinas, he did not sign the form. "Because I didn't agree with that, with what was happening and what I was being told is why," Salinas said in an interview Friday from his hospital bed, where he was recovering after a medical procedure.

Salinas disagrees with the allegations of time card abuse. He said he was out of the office a lot but on the job checking on his employees. "You got to trust and verify that when you ask your workers to go make sure that they do their jobs, that they do it. So, it's just following trucks." Of the phone, he said, "All I did was reset the phone. I didn't delete anything. I think anyone who has left their job previously prior to returning equipment, you just reset the phone and that was it."

When Salinas was dismissed, he was not replaced. Nearly two weeks after he was terminated, the city closed the job for good. It was a position some didn't support, like Enriquez who said he fought against its initial creation. "I felt it was wasting tax payer money. We had one director handling both the sanitation and the landfill for the past twenty years, and there was never any issues with the operation," said Enriquez.

Reflecting back on his job, Salinas said he inherited a position with many problems like a lack of preventative maintenance for equipment and the fleet. It was a responsibility he believes validates the creation of the position. "There should be a position solely for sanitation to ensure that all the brush is picked up timely, to ensure that all the commercial businesses are picked up timely and that residents have their trash picked up on a regular schedule," Salinas said.

On Dec. 18, 2019, the city decided their previous decision on splitting the solid waste management department into two – landfill and sanitation – was not "efficient" or "cost-effective." City council voted to merge the departments and eliminate the director of sanitation position.

Salinas said he is not a liberty to discuss any plans he may have on future action regarding his termination. He is currently seeking employment and focusing on his health.


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