A problem with Luzerne County's time clocks might stem largely from a finger scan acceptance threshold that was set too low, officials say.
In other words, the system might have been purposefully programmed to allow employees to clock in and out regardless of whether their finger scans matched.
County Controller Walter Griffith said he was informed this was done so employees would not be frustrated if they encountered problems getting the clocks to accept their finger scans during the system's implementation.
County Manager Robert Lawton said he received a similar possible explanation and is trying to determine whether the county or time clock supplier – Chelmsford, Mass.-based Kronos Inc. – was responsible for recommending, establishing and monitoring this sensitivity threshold.
I am not blaming Kronos, but at this point the company is not off the hook yet, Lawton said.
County officials recently learned the biometric time clock system allows employees to use their own finger scans to clock absent colleagues in and out as long as they have their coworkers' numerical identification codes.
The prior county administration purchased the system to prevent this type of buddy punching. The system cost $700,000 to date, including added data-hosting services from another company.
Identifying and correcting the problem is a high priority, Lawton said.
It may be a matter of us turning up the sensitivity of the machines, but then we may get into false rejections, Lawton said.
A false rejection occurs when a valid finger scan is rejected, possibly due to chapped skin or original prints that did not meet recognition standards.
Lawton said Kronos has indicated the fingerprints of about 280 employees did not meet the company's 40-percent recognition standard. New prints might be obtained for these employees – or all, if necessary – Lawton said.
Lawton said he will consult with county solicitors if he finds evidence Kronos supplied faulty equipment or technical support in violation of its contract.
Griffith said he has monitored implementation of the time clock system and was never informed about the potential for insufficient fingerprints or plans to accept finger scans that didn't match.
He said Kronos has been charging the county $180 per hour for technical support. It's not our responsibility to make sure the system works right, he said.
Kronos representatives could not be reached for comment on several attempts Wednesday.
A company representative sent an email to Griffith this week saying it is working with the county to resolve the issue.
The company sent the county a list of employees who had poor fingerprint images, and the county may choose to obtain new fingerprints from these workers, the email said.
Kronos also is working on a firmware update so that higher thresholds can be enrolled and stored moving forward, the email said. Ultimately, this will allow the tolerances to be set tighter while still having good acceptance rates.