The woman in charge of payroll for the City of Bradford was arrested Thursday afternoon, charged with paying herself more than $100,000 in overtime she didn’t work.
Bonita Hillyard, 64, of 397 Lang Maid Lane — an employee of the city for more than 18 years — is charged with 69 counts relating to theft and tampering with records.
Court records say she claimed she was processing dental claims for the city while working overtime. However, police installed tracking software on her computer, and it showed she was processing the claims at work and falsifying the dates and times of the entries to show she was doing it on weekends and after hours, according to a criminal complaint in the case.
In one instance, while police were watching through tracking software, Hillyard processed seven claims in 28 minutes while at work, but billed overtime of 13.5 hours for it, court records state. Police found that she falsified her overtime on all 14 pay periods in a year, the records allege.
“We said just a few years ago that the City of Bradford will not tolerate any criminal activities by city employees on or off the job,” said Mayor Tom Riel, who earlier this year had directed Police Chief Chris Lucco to look into all city overtime compensation.
“These alleged crimes are the most egregious by a city employee in any time I can remember,” the mayor said. “It’s a sad and embarrassing day for the City of Bradford.”
Hillyard is charged with theft by unlawful taking, 15 counts of theft by deception, 14 counts of tampering with public records, one count of theft by unlawful taking and 14 counts of criminal use of a communication facility, all third-degree felonies; 28 counts of tampering with public records, first-degree misdemeanors; one count of misapplying government property, a second-degree misdemeanor.
Riel released a prepared statement Thursday afternoon, explaining what Lucco’s investigation into overtime compensation had found.
“The investigation revealed that Hillyard had compensated herself more than $118,000 in overtime compensation in addition to her annual salary since 2010,” the statement read. “This in turn artificially inflated her pension calculation as well as the city’s annual minimum municipal obligation payment.
“Hillyard has made mention of retiring recently and this overtime compensation would have increased her pension by more than $7,000 a year for the rest of her — or a surviving spouse’s — lifetime, potentially costing the already strained pension fund more than $100,000. This is on top of the nearly $120,000 that was taken in the last 6.5 years.”
Riel noted that Hillyard was a longtime employee and in a position of public trust, in charge of payroll processing as well as accounts payable. Being the only person in city government with an intimate knowledge of the payroll system, the mayor said, Hillyard was allegedly able to “devise a complex and calculated system” to increase her wages while it was not showing up in standard reviews and audits of the system.
“This was a conscious decision to defraud the City of Bradford and every one of our residents and taxpayers,” Riel said. “What makes this sting even harder is the city has been struggling each and every year to balance the budget. The city has reduced spending and workforce to the minimum operating expenses, all the while having a trusted employee helping themselves to tens-of-thousands of dollars to enhance their own lifestyle.”
Riel’s statement added that city council and city administrator Teri Cannon are finalizing procedures to assure something like this cannot happen again.
Should Hillyard be convicted, she could lose her retirement benefits. She is currently on leave from the city, Riel said, pending disciplinary action.
“She is a union employee and proper disciplinary procedures have to be followed,” he said, adding that the city will seek full restitution.
Riel pointed out that the investigation into the city’s overtime is continuing.
“We still have an ongoing investigation into similar city matters,” he said. “This came to light as the most apparent and egregious act.”