Tuesday, 4 March 2014

09:27 – The sleet and ice indeed moved in sooner than expected yesterday. Rather than arriving late evening and overnight, the sleet arrived by noon. By early afternoon, everything was covered in a blanket of white. By late afternoon, it was snowing heavily. Barbara said a lot of people at her office left very early. She stuck around until about 4:30 and then headed home. The morning paper says there were nearly 100 accidents in Forsyth County yesterday, most resulting from the icy streets. The high today is to be above freezing, but not by much. Barbara took the Trooper to work again this morning, and plans to make her regular gym visit on the way home.

I’m working on kit stuff today.

18 thoughts on “Tuesday, 4 March 2014”

  1. Not sure what do and any rate tomorrow is going to be interesting. Found a problem that involves the boss.

    My organization gets lots of donations as we are an engineering honor society. We process our own donations entering them into the system where they can be tracked for each member.

    We have the ability to modify, even delete, the donations after they have been entered. We need that capability because of bounced checks or other problems with the donation. I have code in the system that logs any donation entries and changes including deletes. The boss is not aware of the logging table as it is kept in a different database than the member records and donation history.

    I was looking for another issue and was looking for log records of more than 18 records for any given member. We log all changes to the member information including donations. The boss, who has to be a member by bylaw rules, well his records surfaced. Odd I thought.

    When I examined those records I found that he, on January 2, 2014, had entered 5 donations of $100.00 each. These donations triggered an email confirmation of the donation with such an email being considered legal proof of donation to the IRS. Later on that day he then deleted those donations. They are no longer in the system except in the logging database. What he did is trigger five emails of donations in the amount of $100 each, then deleted the donation. He could deduct $500 on his taxes as he would have the email proof of the donations.

    So tomorrow I need to approach the boss with the information and ask for an explanation. I have to do it in a non-confrontational way and find out why he did those transactions.

    If he fires me I have copies of the databases at home as I copy all the database backups to an external drive and take them offsite which is basically my house. I also have all the web scripts and company files at my house including all the accounting files as they are part of the backup. And if he does fire me I will go to the IRS, the executive council and the labor relations board. Firing me would also be the end of his career at the organization.

    Having been through several audits at banks and credit unions such activity by anyone would have raised huge red flags. No money was taken in this process but just the appearance of something shady is never good. Especially involving the IRS.

    I figure at a minimum the relationship between my boss and myself will become less than ideal and work may become a living hell. May motivate me to retire.

  2. Hey Ray, good luck! No matter what, it is going to suck. Maybe it was an honest mistake on his part.

    Voted today here in the Land of Sugar in the Great State of Texas. 35 F and raining. Was the only person on both sides voting for a while.

    Texas set a new March electricity usage record yesterday, 22% higher than previous Marches. We are never this cold in March. In fact, we are usually spinning those air conditioners up by now. But the rain is welcome, very welcome, for our near drought conditions.

    Started a new drug called Rythmol yesterday for my heart afib. It desensitizes the nerve endings in your heart to stop afib. And all other nerve endings in your body. Cardio afib doctor claims that less than one percent of people get neuropathy in their feet with this drug. I think that he is lying to me. The drug is $435/month but my copay is only $20/month. Next step is a heart ablation procedure for $50K where they cauterize the ventral tissue inside my heart which gives off spurious electrical signals in a damaged heart.

  3. Lynn, Rhythmol has been around for a while, so side effects should be pretty well established. Best of luck with it.

  4. Hey Ray, good luck! No matter what, it is going to suck.

    Yes, it is going to suck. I have been shaking most of the day since I found out. Not a good time to be slinging code. Thankfully I had a backup.

    Maybe it was an honest mistake on his part.

    An honest mistake does not happen 5 times. The boss should NEVER be entering any donation information, not once, not 5 times. The boss can change member information but really should not but in a small organization sometimes he would have to make such changes. But entering donations is taboo. All financial information and transactions are supposed to be dual control. In the case of real donations the bookkeeper gets them first, extracts the money, then sends the slips to the person that enters the information. The boss is supposed to match the bookkeeper numbers with the person that enters the donations. Separation of powers. Entering his own donations totally violates that common practice. Deposits are created by the bookkeeper, taken to the bank by another individual, account reconciled by the boss. Again, separation of tasks, a good practice.

    It is part of my obligation as an employee to question questionable actions. To ignore the issue when I know about the issue could make me part of the problem. I wish I had never found the items.

    I may be looking for a job tomorrow, and a lawyer.

  5. I believe the IRS allows anonymous reports of questionable activities.

  6. Yep, I’ve seen plenty of hanky-panky in accounting databases. And I’ve been asked, circumspectly, to perpetrate hanky-panky. eg, generate a standard accounting report with graphics, then hand-edit the generated report because it won’t show the board of directors “the real picture”.

    Good luck, Ray. And don’t think of it as being fired, think of it as evidence for your wrongful termination lawsuit. I think that if you do it right you can make him personally liable rather than punishing the organization.

  7. I believe the IRS allows anonymous reports of questionable activities.

    That is one of my aces in the hole if things don’t go well.

    I think that if you do it right you can make him personally liable rather than punishing the organization.

    That is my second ace in the hole.

    If I go down he is going with me. The executive council would terminate him almost immediately if not sooner.

    I am really hoping that his wanting to input 5 transactions and then delete them is something really innocent and I am just being paranoid. I cannot imagine him wanting to test something in the system as doing so against a live system is never a good idea. Doing it five times is really a bad idea. The timing is also odd, on January 2. Three during office hours, the other two after office hours.

    We do have a feature on the donations when they are entered to post them effective on the last day of the prior year. Necessary because of the time lapse in the mail where donations are truly for the prior tax year. I don’t know if he was checking that out. I don’t know if he was checking out email notification. But to do it five times? I would not question one or two, no big deal, but five is just a little much.

  8. BAD IDEA!!!!!!

    Don’t change the passwords and then “lose” them. That way lies civil liability and maybe criminal vulnerability. Put them in a sealed envelope if you want, and mail the envelope to a board member or something if you must. Even that is really risky ground. Changing passwords to make sure the boss can’t destroy things or try to tamper with evidence or whatever real or specious justification you want is one thing, but you destroying things is completely different.

  9. Yikes, that is a hard situation, Ray, but it sounds like you have your CYA status down solid. And then some. Best of luck with that; hope it pans out OK for ya.

    Zero again here tonight, everything a sheet of ice and frozen snow out there, but no wind, which helps; when temps rocket into the teens it’s like a heat wave here and people get giddy and start with the shorts and tee-shirts. But when the wind kicks up hard off the lake, even the hardcore types make themselves scarce, except for really hardcore ice-fishermen, who are out there regardless. I can’t imagine the fish rewards justify that level of commitment, though.

  10. Confrontations are hard for types like us, Ray, good luck. Hopefully it was something innocent, but most likely the results of your meeting will be unsatisfying. Your boss assures you that those email confirmations won’t be used for tax purposes. May even be true, now that you’ve made the catch. Then what?

    The thing I don’t quite get: Tax deductions of $500 will have saved your boss a lot less than that. Doing something career-ending when you’re running Mt. Gox and can abscond with half-a-billion – I can see why people might do that. But risking career and reputation for a tax break worth maybe $150? Doesn’t make any kind of sense.

  11. OFD, I imagine the ice fishing despite the wind isn’t about the fish, it’s about the fishwife.

    Brad, you’re right, it doesn’t make sense, but you see it all the time. Bookkeepers who lose their jobs because they were raiding the petty cash. When I was a teenager the vice principal of the high school was arrested and lost his job because he’d been stealing the Sunday paper from the local chain drugstore, which kept the piles near the entrance. Every week he’d go and buy something, then grab a paper on the way out without having paid for it. Eventually they got tired of it and called the cops.

    My mom held these kind of fools in contempt and always told me not to waste my time with petty stuff. If I’m going to steal, make it a million dollars. (That was 40 years ago, when a million was worth more. Good thing the government tells us there’s no inflation or we’d be really screwed.) Kind of a mixed message there, but I did take the point.

  12. Then what?

    I don’t know. The organization has an executive council to which my boss reports. Whether I go to them or not depends on the bosses and answers and most importantly his reaction to my questions.

    If he were to get really pissed and terminate me I don’t know that I would have a case because TN is a right to work state. He could terminate me “just because”. If he did I would be contacting the executive council immediately and any of the other national officials (volunteers) with the information. I would also be filing a report with the IRS.

    Doesn’t make any kind of sense.

    No it doesn’t. That is why I have to find out what he was doing and why.

  13. Hey Ray – don’t suppose he could have been testing/demonstrating the system? Awkward position. Here in the UK HM Revenue and Customs (our IRS) ask that bank statements / cheque stubs be available to prove donations. Never easy confronting the boss – back when I was someone else’s slave I had to report one of mine once for improper use of company equipment – fortunately his boss backed me 100% and I wasn’t the one clearing my desk, but I did fear it could go either way at the time. Best of British!

  14. don’t suppose he could have been testing/demonstrating the system?

    That was his stated reason for the transactions. I have to believe him. He was testing the past-dating of donations to the prior year. He should never have been doing this against his own record. He stated he used his own to keep from messing up anyone else’s account. I informed that was never a good idea and he agreed. In fact he never should have been testing but instead should have asked me to confirm the process worked.

    He comes from an IT background and has difficulty keeping his hands out of the system. Back about a year ago one of my scripts stopped working because of a database error. He had changed a field in the database from allowing nulls to not allowing nulls thus causing my code to crash as my code did not populate the field when inserting a record. I had some fairly strong words with him about NEVER change the database, that is my job. He agreed. So him testing something is not a surprise, just not something he should be doing.

  15. If I was inclined to do what your boss did I’d let people know in writing before I did it. I think he’s been very unwise, to say the least.

  16. TN is a right to work state. He could terminate me “just because”.

    Rule of thumb: an employer can fire an employee for good reason or for no reason, but not for a bad reason. (I think that’s a word-for-word quote from my contracts law prof, or maybe tort law.) If you get fired for questioning your boss’s actions here or for reporting him to the board or the IRS, so long as your own hands are clean you’ve got cause for a wrongful termination suit.

    (Insert usual disclaimers about I’m not your lawyer, etc)

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