Mississippi authorities have served Dr. Pam Baker, retired director of the South Mississippi Regional Center in Long Beach, a division of the Department of Mental Health, with a demand for repayment of $423,801 in unsubstantiated overtime and call-back pay to dozens of employees.
State Auditor Stacey Pickering said Baker authorized payments to employees for call-back work that was performed from January 2003 – January 2009 without statutory authority and knowledge and approval of the Department of Mental Health. The demand for repayment of $423,801 will go the company that bonded Baker during her time running the regional mental health district. She headed the department for more than 25 years.
As a result of the overpayment, the Public Employees Retirement System also reimbursed the Department of Mental Health for $166,667.29 for employer and employee contributions made on behalf of 53 employees during the time period.
The State Auditor’s Office determined Baker used call-back pay to increase individual’s salaries without requiring overtime work to be performed. The State Auditor’s Office was informed by the Department of Mental Health of the violation of paying unsubstantiated call-back and overtime pay in February 2011.
The Mississippi Department of Mental Health informed the South Mississippi Regional Center this practice would no longer be allowed in February 2011 upon discovery through a routine internal audit.
Baker servedl as director of the South Mississippi Regional Center from August 15, 1983 through April 30, 2009, when she retired.
“I appreciate Ed LeGrand’s leadership at the Department of Mental Health and for notifying my office of their initial findings in 2011,” said Pickering. “This practice of paying unsubstantiated overtime and call-back pay is a clear violation of state law. The demand against Dr. Pam Baker is a substantial amount and includes un-allowable payments to employees at the South Mississippi Regional Center.
“In addition to this demand, the refund from the Public Employees Retirement System and adjustments made to these individuals salary will result in significant savings to the taxpayers of Mississippi ensuring these individuals do not receive retirement benefits they are not entitled to receive.”
The demand issued against Baker includes $248,823.93 principle; $162,122.18 interest and $12,855.04 in investigative costs. The State Auditor’s Office has filed against the bond held by Baker during her time as director of the Center.