NORTHEAST OHIO -- They're government workers who get paid tens of thousands of dollars to sit at home and do nothing. And taxpayers are footing the bill.
A Channel 3 News investigation found that Cuyahoga County paid a couple dozen employees a total of $358,000 in the last two years to go home while they were investigated for possible wrongdoing.
"It's kind of like they're being put on vacation," said Elise Hara, the county's director of human resources. Hara says it may appear that way, but the county is doing all it can to investigate their cases quickly so they can make a determination if the employee should return to work.
Hara says prior administrations automatically placed workers on paid leave because it was the easy way out.
"We always felt that by putting them on a paid leave lessened the liability of the sytems down the road," said former county administrator Jim McCafferty.
Brenda Frazier was placed on paid leave for 11 months. The former Deputy Director of County Children and Family Services received nearly $90,000 after being accused of having an unlawful interest in a public ocntract. Her husband, Mansfield, was on the board that issued the contract. He says his wife could have continued working for the county but it was the county's choice to send her home with pay.
"Find something for them to do. They're still getting paid," he said.
Social worker Angela Williams was also disciplined with pay. She collected about $23,000 after being accused of hitting two children she was responsible for as a county caseworker.
Williams told the Investigator Tom Meyer that she felt sending her home was a waste of taxpayer dollars.
"I feel I could have been more productive, if you want to be honest about it, yes," Williams said.
Channel 3 found the gravy train extends all the way to Columbus. The state has paid employees close to $4 million to sit on the sidelines in the past two years. Some of those employees took medical leave, but a number of workers were at home being paid because of possible wrongdoing.
Public administrators, bound by state laws and union contracts, are frustrated with a disciplinary system that they believe moves too slowly.
"Would I like to see it move quicker? You bet," said County Executive Ed Fitzgerald.