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Two Cincinnati police officers falsified timesheets for more than $10,800, investigation shows

Sgt. LaKisha Gross was fired; Officer Darren Sellers retired
Posted at 7:56 AM, Jan 03, 2020

CINCINNATI — Two Cincinnati police officers suspended last May were falsifying timesheets and together pocketed more than $10,800 for hours they did not work, according to an Internal Investigations Section report.

The department fired Sgt. LaKisha Gross in December because she took $8,689.96 in pay for 215 hours she was "absent from duty without permission" between May 1, 2018, and April 6, 2019, according to the report.

Chief Eliot Isaac also ordered Officer Darren Sellers to be fired for taking $2,156.41 in pay for 62.2 hours he was "absent from duty without permission" between Oct. 1, 2018, and March 23, 2019, according to the report.

However, Sellers retired last October before the Human Resources Department completed a review of the disciplinary proposal, the report says.

Police officials revealed this week that Gross and Sellers were no longer on the force, but they did not explain why until WCPO filed a public records request for the Internal Investigations Section report.

Gross, 39, a personal crimes investigator, "actively engaged in a pattern and practice to deceive her supervisors and the City of Cincinnati to collect unearned income," Capt. Aaron Jones wrote in a Sept. 5 memo to Isaac recommending her dismissal.

"The pervasiveness of the conduct is egregious," Jones wrote. "This is not an instance where Sgt. Gross was a half hour late for work or left an hour early to start her weekend. There were 47 occasions when Sgt. Gross either arrived more than two hours late for work or left more than two hours early. On seven of these occasions, Sgt. Gross collected her salary for days where she never even responded to work at all.

"This pattern of deceptive behavior continued for almost a year," Jones said.

On one occasion, Gross threw vacation request forms for her and another officer "in a garbage can instead of submitting them," Jones wrote. That resulted in Gross and the other officer being paid regular wages and not having vacation time charged against them.

The commander in Sellers' case, Capt. Dennis L. Swingley, said Sellers tried to cover his tracks by submitting 10 backdated leave of absence requests "after he was aware he was the subject of an investigation."

Sellers, 51, a polygraph technician, reported at least two hours late on 19 days, the report said, and was late for work 95 percent of the time during the nearly six-month period. During that same period, Sellers was on time or early on just three days.

Swingley recommended a 20-day suspension for Sellers, but Isaac wrote "Dismissal" on the report.

Both Gross and Sellers cited mitigating circumstances in response to the accusations.

Gross said it was common practice for members of the Personal Crimes Squad to leave early on slow days as long as they left their phones on and reported back if called in.

Sellers said he "lost track of doing my slips" after his wife got promoted and began working nights and he became responsible for taking his daughter to school. Sellers also said his wife and daughter were injured in a crash. He said he requested to work a different shift but was denied.

Sellers' union representative, Specialist Kathleen Harrell, cast doubt on "the accuracy of the 68 hours based on how supervision was conducted."

"There were three days where (Internal Investigations Section) questioned Officer Sellers as to whether he came to work. Officer Sellers was able to produce a text to his supervisor where he requested off in a sick for pay status and a Form25s was not submitted by his supervisor," Harrell said.

"The investigation showed there was a supervisor disposing off-time slips and putting them in the garbage can and a supervisor not submitting slips."

Gross joined the force in 2005 and Sellers joined in 1998, according to their personnel files.