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Prosecutor gets info on man who allegedly did work on the side while at state job

Special to the Legal News

Published: September 11, 2019

The Ohio Inspector General this week turned over results of an investigation of a state worker who fudged time sheets and spent hours on the phone for a secondary job to a city prosecutor and the Ohio Ethics Committee.

The investigation found Mohammad Asasi, an environmental specialist at the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency's Division of Surface Water, had performed work associated with outside employment while on state time and using state equipment.

Asasi initially told investigators that he was a silent partner in an eyebrow salon business. He admitted later, however, that he helped the salon operator who is not English-language proficient with writing.

Additionally, Asasi told investigators he had a rental property business with limited interaction with long-term lessees.

When asked by investigators if he conducted any of his private business on state time, the man responded, "There are times I got phone calls for a minute or two minutes."

Investigators first looked at Asasi's state desk phone records to find the man made or received 157 personal telephone calls, totaling 12 hours, 18 minutes for the period from December 29, 2017, through January 28, 2019 (with the exception of about a month in late 2018).

Additionally, Asasi made or received 123 telephone calls related to his secondary employment, totaling 14 hours, 35 minutes, during the same period, the investigation found.

A look at the man's personal cell phone records obtained by subpoena revealed that during the five-year period beginning February 2014, Asasi made or received 1,746 calls relating to his private businesses during hours for the duration of approximately 200.1 hours.

Personal calls during work hours for the same period were estimated at 172.8 hours.

Asasi's manager, Mari Mansfield received complaints from Asasi's co-workers alleging that Asasi was spending a considerable amount of time on his personal telephone during work hours and it appeared the calls were related to his private businesses, summary of the investigation provided.

The Ohio EPA Office of Investigations and Safety reviewed Asasi's email account, internet records, and state telephone records and found that Asasi was using state resources to conduct his private businesses.

The Inspector General's office found reasonable cause to believe that a wrongful act occurred based on violations of employment policies related to Asasi's use of his state-issued desk phone; for engaging in personal business for profit using his state phone; and for excessive personal phone calls.

The investigation also revealed Asasi manipulated his reported working hours so that he would not record working more than 40 hours per week.

The report resulted in the following five recommendations to the EPA:

• Review the conduct of Ohio EPA employees and consider whether administrative action is warranted.

• Review Ohio EPA secondary employment policy and consider revising the policy to require all employees to report all outside employment regardless of whether it conflicts with the core business hours of the agency.

• Require all Ohio EPA employees to complete a timesheet, either paper or electronic, that identifies starting time, ending time and lunch in and out times. The Office of the Ohio Inspector General had previously recommended in Report of Investigation 2018- CA00002, that Ohio EPA consider using a more advanced time accountability tracking service such as KRONOS.

• Require employees to complete and sign an acknowledgement on all agency policies and policy updates.

• Provide employees with a review of the policies on ethics, time and attendance, secondary employment, and use of the telephone.

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