Prosecutor asks state auditor to review Cincinnati police overtime

Police chief says audit inflated amount paid
Posted at 3:54 PM, Apr 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-28 00:00:54-04

CINCINNATI -- The Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office has asked the Ohio state auditor to review an audit of Cincinnati Police Department overtime, Prosecutor Joe Deters and Chief Eliot Isaac said Friday. 

Deters said Mayor John Cranley called him Thursday about the new allegations raised in a police captain's lawsuit claiming abuse of the overtime system. A spokesperson for Cranley said Deters had told the mayor to alert him to any suspected theft in office when overtime audit numbers were released earlier this year. In response to Cranley's call, Deters requested a copy of the audit and called State Auditor Dave Yost to look into the issue. 

"If they determine any criminal activity occurred, they will refer it back to the prosecutor's office for criminal prosecution or a civil finding," Deters said.

Isaac said in a written statement that he "welcomes this transparent review."

"The Cincinnati Police Department intends to continue to review of its overtime management practices to ensure compliance with the City's Internal Audit recommendations for overtime use," he said.

Isaac disputed the accuracy of overtime pay figures that were previously reported, saying the "leaked" numbers had not been verified by the department's finance management section or the city budget office. 

On Thursday, Police Capt. Jeff Butler filed an amendment to his lawsuit against the city, alleging that some officers "flagrantly and illegally abused the overtime system." Butler said he was in charge of overseeing the audit.

"He's alleging that, over the course of time, some of the officers have misused the overtime system," said Randy Freking, one of Butler's attorneys. "If you're getting paid and you're not working, that could be characterized as theft in office."

In the court filing, Butler highlighted the overtime pay of three District 5 officers, saying that Capt. Bridget Bardua made $82,723 in OT, Sgt. Jason Volkerding made $126,225 in OT and Sgt. Jason Scott earned $92,215 in OT.

However, official numbers released on behalf of Isaac Friday indicated each of those officers made less in overtime pay than Butler had claimed. During 2017, Bardua made $70,903, Volkerding made $94,591 and Scott made $58,667 total in overtime and compensatory time, according to those figures. In a memo, Lt. Col. Teresa Theetge wrote that the original audit "inaccurately inflated the monetary value of compensatory time balances" by calculating time-and-a-half twice.

Theetge wrote that a draft of the overtime audit was "disclosed to the local media without authorization" before it was checked for accuracy. A copy of overtime figures that the department previously provided WCPO in response to a public records request indicated the department paid more than $10.8 million in overtime during 2017. In the memo, Theetge wrote that the amount paid in overtime during 2017 was actually about $7.4 million, including about $2.2 million that was reimbursed to the department for off-duty details.

Theetge said the $5.2 million they spent on overtime was actually under budget by about $1.5 million.

In the lawsuit, Butler said he took his concerns about abuse of overtime to Bardua and Isaac, but neither initiated any discipline. He alleged the "systemic abuse" of overtime in District 5 under Bardua constitutes felony theft.

"It's hard to understand why any supervisor would ignore the waste of money, and here it's more egregious because it's taxpayer money," Freking said. 

Police said Isaac could not comment on Butler's lawsuit because it's pending legal action.

Sgt. Dan Hils, the police union president, said the high-ranking accusations do warrant an independent review.

"I think it's serious allegations, and I hope they're not accurate," he said. "But I guess somebody is going to have to look at this from outside."