Police say errors slant perception of pay for details
The Boston Police Department has concluded that hundreds of clerical errors created the appearance that officers repeatedly collected double pay for working more than one private detail shift at a time in recent years and that only a handful of officers may have manipulated the system for extra money.
The department's Internal Affairs Division and civilian administrators conducted inquiries into 57 police officers after the Globe reported that payroll records of details showed that, over a 2½-year period, 396 officers had been paid for working private details in more than one location at a time.
After the Globe published its analysis in September, police officials began regular audits of payroll records of details to prevent officers being paid for two shifts at once. A recent Globe examination of payroll records indicates no officers were paid for overlapping detail shifts since the audits were launched in October.
Of the 57 officers investigated, seven face disciplinary action for submitting time cards and collecting pay for overlapping shifts. Investigators said a total of $738 was overpaid to those officers.
Police officials concluded that 50 of the cases reviewed were explained by errors, including mistakes on time cards submitted by officers and typographical errors by clerks recording information from the time cards to the computerized payroll system. In 49 of those cases, the errors resulted in officers being paid for two or more shifts on one day when they had actually worked them on separate days or for shifts in the afternoon when they had actually worked in the morning, the officials said. Such errors made the records wrongly indicate that the officers were working in more than one place at a time.
One officer was cleared after investigators determined he submitted a time card for 1Â½ hours of work at a construction detail in the Back Bay, but a payroll data-entry clerk credited him for nine hours. The error caused the appearance of an overlap with another detail shift the officer performed that day. Extra pay of $145 for hours the officer didn't work was deducted from the officer's paycheck.
"We're finding out this is a lot of just sloppy, stupid, dumb, whatever you want to call it, mistakes," said Superintendent Al Goslin, who heads the department's Internal Affairs Division. "It's creating a nightmare for my department."
Department officials acknowledged that the inquiry was not foolproof. In a few cases, records were so confused that officials could not come to airtight conclusions. Three officers were cleared because investigators could not locate time cards or other records that should have been on file in the department's detail unit or in district stations. They ruled there was not enough evidence to prove or disprove that the officers had tried to cheat the system.
In some cases, investigators acknowledged, records including time cards, assignment sheets, and officers' diaries didn't agree, forcing investigators to make judgment calls. The investigators would not say how many of the cases fell into that category, but said they decided to clear some officers if the officers produced at least one piece of independent evidence corroborating their stories.
"Nothing's absolutely 100 percent certain," Goslin said. "But if it's in the range of 80- to 85 percent certain, it was our interpretation that it was unfounded."
The department began reviewing records and interviewing officers soon after the Globe asked police officials to explain the overlaps shown in payroll records. Civilian administrators initially reviewed 16 officers randomly selected from the 396 whose payroll records indicated overlapping shifts. The administrators decided that two of those cases should be handed over to the Internal Affairs Division for formal investigations. Later, internal affairs investigators independently launched formal investigations into 15 more officers who, according to payroll records, had the highest incidence of overlaps. Goslin, meanwhile, informally reviewed the cases of an additional 27 officers selected from a list provided by the Globe.
Ten of the 17 who faced formal charges by internal affairs were cleared. Previously named in Globe stories as under investigation are Patrolmen Richard D. Cintolo, Kevin C. Coyne, Shawn N. Harris, Alfred A. James, Darius M. Johnson, John P. Ridge, Jerome K. Riley, Christopher K. Shoulla, Paul J. Sullivan, and Detective Joseph C. Britt.
Police Commissioner Kathleen M. O'Toole said in September, after the Globe published its findings, that the department would audit past payroll records to determine which officers had been paid double and investigate all incidents of overlap. The department has not yet looked into 334 officers whose payroll records indicated overlapping shifts. Citing time constraints and the abundance of administrative errors, officials said they are focusing on preventing future problems.
"Our priority obviously is to fix the system," said the department spokesman, Lieutenant Kevin Foley. "Then we'll have to look at whether it's cost-effective to go back and look at all those."
The seven officers who face disciplinary action for double-dipping are Patrolman Joseph F. Scannell, who had 14 incidents of overlapping shifts; Lieutenant John H. Danilecki, one incident; Sergeant Michael Wosny, two incidents; Detective Kenneth C. Dorch, two incidents; Patrolman Bruce E. Smith, two incidents; Sergeant Martin B. Kraft, one incident; and Patrolman Paul E. Hayward, one incident.
Some of those officers told the Globe they are innocent of the allegations and plan to appeal the department's conclusions.
"I know I did not do anything illegal or corrupt, and that's all that matters to me and my family," Kraft wrote in an e-mail to the Globe.
Danilecki also said he planned to fight the disciplinary action, saying he made innocent mistakes on his time cards.
"It was a wake-up call for me," Danilecki said. "It definitely looked like I was double-dipping, but the department knows I wouldn't do that."
Scannell, Wosny, Smith, Dorch, and Hayward did not return calls seeking comment.
Goslin would not say what type of discipline investigators are recommending for the officers, saying O'Toole has yet to sign off on the orders. Once the commissioner approves the recommendations, officers can appeal or negotiate a lesser punishment.
District Attorney Daniel F. Conley does not plan to prosecute the officers for larceny, which could carry prison sentences of up to five years, saying that O'Toole said there was not enough evidence to prove criminal intent.
"The commissioner has briefed the district attorney on the investigations and has informed him that based on her review, there is no basis to refer any of these cases to our office for criminal prosecution," spokesman Dave Procopio said. "We have faith in the integrity of the commissioner's review."
Donovan Slack can be reached at email@example.com.