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Dallas County Mostly Responsible for Its Payroll Problems, Consultant Says

Employees and vendors have gone unpaid or inaccurately compensated for months due to the county’s faulty payroll software system.

A person opening a paycheck.
The rollout of Dallas County’s new payroll software system — which has left employees and vendors unpaid or inaccurately paid for months — has been deemed “one of the worst that I’ve encountered” by an independent consultant.

The consultant, former DART interim president, executive director and ex-CFO David Leininger told county commissioners at the Continuous Improvement Committee meeting on Monday that the county’s woes could be tied to a lack of IT involvement, communication and planning, among other issues.

Leininger said that the county’s IT team, the software consultant, project manager and others “failed” auditor Darryl Thomas, who oversees payroll. He said internal IT staff should have done more testing beforehand.

“The IT team that was associated with this — not the broad IT team — should have done a lot more work on risk assessment,” he said. “There’s a good bit of responsibility that we rest there.”

In an interview, the former head of the county IT department told The Dallas Morning News that she warned elected officials about the risks of implementing the Oracle financial management system in April.

In fact, Melissa Kraft, who resigned June 30, said she wanted to delay the software rollout because there were repeated test failures, but county officials — including Thomas — pushed forward.

“IT staff told him it would have been better to delay the go-live,” Kraft said. “IT staff told him [Thomas] it wasn’t ready.”

Leininger shared a similar message with commissioners, stating that the county should not have tried to push through so many software changes at once. Dallas County has also seen complaints from criminal justice departments over a new criminal case management system launched a month after the new payroll system.

“Usually, you don’t see this many major systems all introduced at the same time because of the risk,” Leininger said. “Here you are, bringing them on in a relatively compressed time.”

Commissioners approved the $39,000 contract for Leininger’s consulting services on Aug. 9 after nearly four months of serious ongoing technical issues related to correctly paying county vendors and 6,800 employees.

Attorneys, court reporters, expert witnesses, sheriff department deputies, jail guards and early election poll workers have all said there have been paychecks issues. Employees and contractors have complained of shorted pay and hours missing from their paid time off banks.

Leininger said about 650 employees still have unrectified errors in their paychecks, a reduction from about 3,000. There have also been discrepancies in payments for child support, association dues and retirement plans — all of which should be deducted before employees receive their paychecks.

County employees have already filed a complaint about the pay issues with the Labor Department, which has launched an ongoing investigation.

Leininger estimates that it could take the county a few months to dig itself out of the backlog of payments and to set up correct payments for employees and vendors. He advised that the county address the employee payroll issues within the next two pay cycles.

©2023 The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.