State Audit of Cuyahoga County Reports Unauthorized Hiring Incentives, Payroll Errors

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Columbus – Cuyahoga County violated its charter by paying almost $63,000 in unauthorized hiring incentives to eight employees during 2017, state auditors reported today. 

The audit of the county’s finances also discovered payroll errors that caused another 10 employees to receive $4,532 they did not earn. All 18 individuals have either returned the money or are in the process of repaying it to the county.

County Executive Armond Budish and Chief Talent Officer Douglas Dykes introduced new human resources policies in February 2016 and October 2017 allowing the county to offer hiring incentives, including signing bonuses and advanced paid leave. But those policies were invalid, auditors said, because they were never approved by Cuyahoga County Council.

“Cuyahoga County’s charter requires council approval for all changes to human resources policy,” Auditor of State Dave Yost said. “In this case, council never even had an opportunity to review the changes before they went into effect.”

Based on the unauthorized policies, the county paid eight new employees a combined $47,925 for 920 hours of advanced paid leave. Of that amount, $17,309 was paid to former Deputy Chief Information Officer James Hay, who also accepted an improper signing bonus of $15,000 when he was hired in 2017. 

In an unrelated finding, auditors cited 10 employees who received a combined $4,532 in excessive pay due to payroll miscalculations. Records show the county incorrectly calculated their overtime pay at a rate of time and a half.

Auditors issued findings for recovery totaling $67,457 against the 18 current and former employees, ordering them to return the improper payments. Most of them repaid the county via deductions from paychecks and accrued vacation leave. Others, including Hay, are paying the money back in monthly installments. 

County officials responded to the audit by saying they have adopted a new employee handbook that addresses the problems identified by auditors.

“The new handbook does not permit any executive and/or special compensation,” officials wrote. “The County will adhere to this policy.” 

A full copy of the report is available online.


The Auditor of State’s office, one of five independently elected statewide offices in Ohio, is responsible for auditing more than 6,000 state and local government agencies.  Under the direction of Auditor Dave Yost, the office also provides financial services to local governments, investigates and prevents fraud in public agencies and promotes transparency in government.

Beth Gianforcaro
Press Secretary