The term “scapegoating ” is defined as “ blaming someone for the wrongdoings, mistakes, or faults of others, especially for reasons of expediency.”
On Thursday, April 18, 2019, the Albuquerque Journal published an editorial regarding the ongoing saga of Albuquerque Police Department (APD) Public Information Officer Spokesman Simon Drobik and used the word scapegoating.
On Friday, April 12, 2019, it was reported that the APD Civilian Police Oversight (CPO) Agency recommended the dismissal of APD Master Police Officer 1st Class and Public Information Officer Simon Drobik as well as his former supervisor for overtime pay abuse.
The CPO Agency investigation found that in 2018, Drobik was paid $192,973 making him Albuquerque’s highest-paid employee in 2018. andnd hat his supervisor was one of the city’s top 11 paid wage earners.
You can review both Journal stories here:
ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL EDITORIAL
The April, 18 Albuquerque Journal editorial on the developing overtime pay scandal was entitled “Firing Officer Won’t Fix APD Overtime Accounting”.
Following is the entire Journal editorial followed by the Journal link:
“The Civilian Police Oversight Agency’s investigation into an Albuquerque police officer’s pay has resulted in the CPOA recommending that officer Simon Drobik and his unnamed supervisor be fired for various time sheet transgressions.
Rather than drop the hammer so quickly on two individuals, department officials should follow the CPOA’s recommendation to scrutinize current policies and practices – and the extent of violations of such. Then they should demand repayment of excess earnings and determine disciplinary action for all those involved.
Drobik earned $192,973 in 2018 – more than any other city employee. The committee believes that some of Drobik’s earnings were obtained inappropriately because he was accepting overtime assignments during time frames when he was on call in his capacity as a spokesman to the media. According to APD’s standard operating procedure, officers aren’t allowed to accept overtime shifts if they are also on call.
The overtime in question wasn’t extra hours on a normal shift; Drobik was working “chief’s overtime,” a practice in which private organizations pay the city to have an officer stationed at their business or directing traffic. That means at least some of the money he earned during those assignments was reimbursed from private entities.
That’s not an excuse for Drobik or his supervisor ignoring SOP or his timesheet kerfuffle, of course; at the heart of APD’s policy is the fact that nobody can be in two places at once, nor should they be paid as if they were. Either the taxpayer or the private entity is getting the short end of the stick.
In one particularly problematic incident, Drobik was stationed at Target for chief’s overtime but left after being called in when a suspect shot at police in a tense situation that turned into a SWAT standoff. It’s in question if he was paid for both his spokesman duties and being at Target.
No one questions Drobik’s work ethic or his job performance. But the committee said Drobik might not be the only one with a problematic time card. And the decision to get rid of the cap on overtime when there was a severe shortage of officers may have muddied the issue.
APD leaders must put in the work to figure out how widespread the policy violations are and whether policies need to be changed – because nobody should be paying for an officer who isn’t there.
APD needs to investigate thoroughly, then be able to give a rigorous accounting of where officers are deployed and who is paying them, including Drobik and his supervisor. The community needs answers. Scapegoating simply isn’t the way to get them.”
DROBIK NOT THE ONLY ONE
The recent CPO Investigation found that in reviewing Chief’s Overtime slips, the names of many of the top earners in APD were on the same Chief’s Overtime assignments that Master Police Officer 1st Class and APD Spokesman Simon Drobik was on.
At the end of each calendar year, City Hall releases the top 250 wage earners at city hall.
The list of 250 top city hall wages earners is what is paid for the full calendar year of January 1 to December 31 of any given year.
The listing of the city’s 250 top wage earners for the calendar year 2018 includes 124 APD sworn police as the top wage city hall wage earners, earning more than most department directors as well as the APD Chief and all of his Deputy Chiefs.
The list of 124 include patrol officers first class, sergeants, lieutenants, commanders the deputy chiefs, and the chief with annual pay for the year 2018 ranging from $101,000 a year up to $192,937 all under the Keller Administration.
Base yearly pay for sworn police, depending upon rank and years of experience, is $60,320 to $83,200.
The base pay does not include longevity bonus pay at the end of a year of between $2,600 to $15,600 contingent on years of experience.
Following is a breakdown of the numbers of police officers paid in excess of $100,000 in calendar year 2018 as a result of overtime paid:
6 police officers were paid $151,313 TO $192,000
24 police officers were paid $126,162.80 to $144,510.44.
27 police officers were paid $113,498.98 to $125,088.48
22 police officers were paid $109,315.89 to $112,516.27
25 police officers were paid $105,076.20 to $108,946.45
21 police officers were paid $101,633.11 to $104,987.69
ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY
Firing Drobik may not fix the APD overtime accounting like the Journal proclaims, but it sure the hell will send the very strong and very needed message that needs to be sent to the other 124 officers on the 250 city top wage earners, and whoever else there is, that the practice of “padding your wages” will not be tolerated under any circumstance.
No doubt Drobik’s termination, as well as his supervisor’s termination, will have a chilling affect on overtime pay abuses.
There is historical precedent when it comes to taking aggressive action to stop overtime abuse by police officers.
Years ago, APD Chief Bob Stover disbanded the entire APD DWI unit when he found out that they were “padding” their overtime.
APD Chief Bob Stover knew how to manage a police department, knew how important it was to keep the public trust when it came to stopping “waste, fraud and abuse” of taxpayer money.
Chief Bob Stover knew that police officers, by virtue of their oath of office, are held to a higher standard that is needed to keep credibility with the public.
The bedrock of that standard is that police officers must be 100% honest in their work performance and it is so critical to being a police officer that lying or perjury is grounds for termination.
Excessive overtime pay is simply not an “accounting problem”, but a practice that reflects upon the honesty and integrity of a police officer when they bill and get paid for not doing any work.
It is very disappointing that the Albuquerque Journal would say “scapegoating’ simply isn’t the way … to figure out how widespread the policy violations are and whether policies need to be changed” while at the same time it essentially ignored and failed to report that there are 124 others with excessive overtime.
Both Journal stories failed to report that the April 12, 2019 Police Oversight Agency investigative report made two major recommendations to deal with the problem of excessive overtime.
Following are the two recommendation:
1.“The City of Albuquerque should ask for another Audit of APD Overtime which will include and audit of the Chief’s Overtime Program. The audit should explore the actual cost to the City of the Chief’s Overtime program versus what the Chief’s overtime program brings in. The audit should cover how many officers take time off from their regularly scheduled duty to go work a Chief’s overtime during those same hours. The audit should also explore whether or not another officer had to be called in on overtime to handle the off-duty officer’s duties on that shift on that day because the staffing level was below the 70% threshold. Lastly, the audit should determine whether or not the Chief’s Overtime Program violates the Anti-Donation Clause of the State of New Mexico.” (April 12, 2019 Police Oversight Investigation report, page 10.)
2. “APD should immediately revise its policy on overtime. Officers should be limited to working no more than 25 hours per week of overtime and that is inclusive of all overtime. The policy should prohibit officers from taking comp time or vacation from their regularly assigned duties for the sole purpose of working a chief’s Overtime assignment. APD supervisors, prior to approving a leave request, should be required to check with the Chiefs Overtime Program to make sure that the officer is not signed up for Chief’s Overtime and/or they are not taking leave to go to work a Chief’s Overtime assignment during the very same hours they are scheduled to work their assigned shift. Officers should be prohibited from working Chief’s Overtime if they are in an “on call” status. The policy should reflect any recommendations that were made by the City Auditor. Lastly, the policy should be vigorously enforced and adhered to by all APD personnel.” (April 12, 2019, Police Oversight Investigation report, page 11.)
When Tim Keller was New Mexico State Auditor, he became the “white knight” champion to find and stop “waste, fraud and abuse” of taxpayer money by government officials and employees. Keller’s audits garnered him extensive news coverage that no doubt played a major role in getting him elected Mayor.
Mayor Keller now needs to take action and order his police chief to do the same thing to stop “waste, fraud and abuse” by government employees, other wise Mayor Keller will be viewed as being not in charge and unwilling to get control of his police department.
Keller needs to “walk the talk” himself and put a stop to any “waste, fraud and abuse” when it comes to APD overtime within the very city government he now heads. A good start would be for Keller to order the implementation of the two recommendations made by the Police Oversight Agency investigation.
Another action that would clearly stop “overtime abuse” would be for Mayor Keller to order as a condition of work or return to work, the Drobik or any other police who is found to have over-billed, refund of all the overtime paid during the time an officer is doing two jobs at once and being paid twice in violation of APD standard operating procedures.
Mayor Tim Keller can and should refer the entire CPO Investigative report to the Bernalillo County District Attorney or the Attorney General and allow them to determine if there is “no evidence of possible criminal activity by any of the parties investigated” as was found by the Police Oversight Agency investigation.
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