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Apr 1, 2013 2:15 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Auditors Say Southampton Police Department Compensation System Is Easily Abused

Apr 3, 2013 11:25 AM

“[A board member] questioned my judgment in the paper a couple of weeks ago,” Mr. Wilson recalled of a comment by Councilman Jim Malone about a promotion he had suggested. “Well, they just paid an auditing firm $50,000 to tell them exactly what I told them in the first month I was on the job. But I guess anything that gets them to listen to reason is money well spent.”

The audit of the department’s time off accruals was ordered by the Town Board last year following concerns raised by Comptroller Len Marchese about the size of the accrued time off payouts that were given to some retiring veteran officers. “Last year, there were some payouts of police officers who retired, and the calculation of those payouts have come into question,” Mr. Marchese said. “When I looked at it, I had some concerns.”

Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said that the Town Board is preparing a request for proposals for new technology systems that will better track attendance of officers on duty.

Ms. Throne-Holst also acknowledged that there had been questions raised by both Mr. Marchese early in his own tenure at the town and again by the auditors when they first began their work about some of the large payments made to retiring veteran officers. The discrepancies the administrators found, she said, were due mainly to some unwritten but long understood policies for accruing sick days and other time off compensation with the department—casual policies that she said are fairly common throughout law enforcement agencies.

When the auditors sat down with police department brass and went over specific instances, and had various policies explained to them, the numbers added up, she said—though she did not offer any specifics about what some of those circumstances were.

“It wasn’t so much an issue of the numbers being high, because they are high—it was just the concern that there was never any sort of checks and balances for how such numbers were arrived at,” Ms. Throne-Holst said. “Not that we’re suggesting that there was anything amiss, but it just seemed odd that we paid out something without being part and parcel to how it was calculated. If there ever was a question raised, none of us could say, ‘OK, I understand why Officer X was paid dollar amount Y.’”

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“We believe you should make some changes in terms of documentation policies,” Mr. Hoffman said. “There is some documentation missing.”...Maybe its that other location where they kept the evidence seized from the "street crime unit"...And how is the overtime accounted for again?
By V.Tomanoku (788), southampton on Apr 1, 13 3:30 PM
More cracks in The Blue Wall of Silence.

It is time for the Town Board and Supervisor to get public on this "real mess" per the Press's editorial.

Rest in Peace, Sister Walsh.
By PBR (4953), Southampton on Apr 1, 13 4:01 PM
The overtime was accrued looking for the missing evidence. More overtime will be needed to find the missing documention.
By goldenrod (505), southampton on Apr 1, 13 4:04 PM
2 members liked this comment
Aahhhhh! Wilson found a problem with record keeping of time off. Was that the "lack of judgment" Malone was talking about? A second grader could tell you that people being in charge of their own time off is a BAD idea. Human nature always comes into play along with greed and stupidity. What a shame they ran Wilson out of town, he was actually trying to clean up the mess that was 22+ years in the making. Guess his honesty and knowledge of how a police department should be run intimidated the majority ...more
By sunnydays (43), Hampton Bays on Apr 1, 13 4:24 PM
4 members liked this comment
“As to what we needed to do to address whatever issues there were that have led to this, I’ve got three words for you: Chief Robert Pearce,” Mr. Malone said. - 'UPDATE: Top Cops Dispute Charges That Street Crime Unit Office Was Strewn With Drugs' 3/13/13
By OU812 (161), East Quogue on Apr 1, 13 9:35 PM
Who is to decide what a "significant" discrepancy is with our taxpayer money? According to prior articles it is at least $44,000 in 2011 alone and if the DA's are investigating it I would assume there is a belief of criminal activity, not just simple mistakes.

"Mr. Hoffmann said that the audit did not find evidence of significant discrepancies in the amount of money paid to officers from what they were rightfully due. He did not say if any discrepancies were found, or how large they were." ...more
By OU812 (161), East Quogue on Apr 1, 13 9:33 PM
And it looks more and more that the town board handed the chicken coop over to the fox. It appears that Chief Wilson kept uncovering corruption and the town board did everything they could to get rid of him. 27east, please keep following up as it seems the press is the only way we will find out the truth!

"The documents also included three felony charges and a misdemeanor charge prepared by former Chief William Wilson Jr. in 2012 against a police lieutenant, James Kiernan, for allegedly ...more
By OU812 (161), East Quogue on Apr 1, 13 9:50 PM
2 members liked this comment
double checks are a bad idea... now we will have 2 or more cops lying instead of just 1.
By littleplains (305), olde england on Apr 2, 13 7:31 AM
1 member liked this comment
So yet again here's another article of supervisory officers milking the system what a shocker. These bosses are giving a bad name to the hard working men and women who show up at our houses when we dial 911. There needs to be a cleaning of the "house" from sgt to chief and all of the town board. This is just getting ridiculous now
By mrobin (120), North Sea on Apr 3, 13 8:15 AM
This very well might be the most interesting article yet. Here is what I took from it: ATH states that there were unwritten policies which she was told about by administration of pd which entitled departing officers more money than contractually agreed upon. So why set up limitations within a contract and why is she allowing pd members to set their own terms of employment? Who is in charge here? Who is looking out for the taxpayer? This is outrageous! Pay an auditing firm to come in for thousands ...more
By sunnydays (43), Hampton Bays on Apr 3, 13 11:49 AM
2 members liked this comment
I would also like to know what other unwritten policies the town has? That they don't promote women? That they cover up corruption? What exactly is an unwritten policy?
By sunnydays (43), Hampton Bays on Apr 3, 13 11:58 AM
Now you have found the pulse.

A sad state of affairs how much appears to have been done behind closed doors -- for many decades IMO.
By PBR (4953), Southampton on Apr 3, 13 12:30 PM
1 member liked this comment
It appears that the Feds have their hands full dealing with political corruption across all of LI. I wonder if anyone on Southampton Town board will make the cut on a news spread of disgraced NY politicians? Wait until the public finds out the names of those in the police department that filled their pockets on OT during super storm Sandy - which was funded by the federal govt. Same names folks. If they can lie to internal affairs, then what's to stop them from lying on a time card. Demand resignations.
By Geppetto (59), Southampton on Apr 3, 13 12:37 PM
1 member liked this comment
What the, huh? Unwritten policies for pay? Aren't contracts supposed to lay out the conditions for employment and compensation... how the heck are there "unwritten policies", who makes them and what kind of attorney's do we have representing Southampton Town that would allow this to happen!

"Ms. Throne-Holst also acknowledged... The discrepancies the administrators found, she said, were due mainly to some unwritten but long understood policies for accruing sick days and other time off compensation ...more
By OU812 (161), East Quogue on Apr 3, 13 2:26 PM
"fairly common throughout law enforcement agencies"

Yup, there is that Blue Wall of Silence again.

Now let's see who pops up to justify it . . .
By PBR (4953), Southampton on Apr 3, 13 2:32 PM
Blue wall of silence aside, if it is really common then cite examples. I highly doubt that other municipalities pay out on "unwritten policies" without being forced to by litigation. I also highly doubt a court would enforce a verbal contract that only one party has knowledge of - ie the top brassholes that are taking us to the cleaners.

"The lax controls on the accrual system apparently led to the town overpaying five retiring officers more than $44,000 in compensation for unused accrued ...more
By OU812 (161), East Quogue on Apr 3, 13 2:39 PM
Hey ATH, I forgot the remind you of this little "unwritten policy" the town has had for decades. Every time one of our elected officials support corruption or lie to the press our property taxes get cut in half.
No really, it's true. Scouts honor! Now get calculating because this current board alone gets us some great rebates!
By OU812 (161), East Quogue on Apr 3, 13 2:35 PM
Duh!
"Ms. Throne-Holst said. “Not that we’re suggesting that there was anything amiss, but it just seemed odd that we paid out something without being part and parcel to how it was calculated."
By OU812 (161), East Quogue on Apr 3, 13 2:52 PM
ATH speaks and not one local paper covers it. It is reported that the town will look into hiring an outside consulting company to review the troubled police department. Sounds just like the Bracewell & Giuliani investigation that only provided a verbal report so that the findings would not be able to be FOILed or transparent. They are looking to spend our money on false prophets once again. Sickening.
By Geppetto (59), Southampton on Apr 5, 13 9:23 AM
"Throne-Holst said Thursday morning in a radio interview that she expected the hiring of the outside company to be considered at Tuesday's regular board meeting. But after a closed town board executive session in the afternoon, she said a contract with a company would be considered later this month as officials determine the scope of the review and credentials of possible applicants.
"This would be looking at the inner workings of the police department, the policies and procedures, [and] some ...more
By PBR (4953), Southampton on Apr 5, 13 9:37 AM
PBR-

I read the article. It is like me selling you my car and having my mechanic there to tell you that the vehicle runs excellent and has no mechanical flaws. Want to but a car PBR?
By Geppetto (59), Southampton on Apr 5, 13 11:34 AM
Sure, especially if your mechanic says it is a good deal . . . (However, I would rather "buy" the car than "but" it!)

All joking aside, your points are well taken. I have long advocated for an independent federal or state special prosecutor, or grand jury, to tackle this "real mess" to quote the Press's editorial a few weeks ago. Hopefully the US Attorney's investigation will cast a wide net, but one's faith runs thin here in many respects.

PS -- I posted the quoted text above ...more
By PBR (4953), Southampton on Apr 5, 13 12:30 PM
The accountant said, however, that there is no evidence that any of the payouts for time owed to retiring officers in recent years—more than $1.5 million in 2011 and 2012 alone—were above what the officers who received them were contractually due.

So what am I missing here? Administrative practices that need to be tightened up. And if someone is being paid for something that the town is not contractually obligated to pay, sounds like the someone in charge at Town Hall is dropping ...more
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Apr 5, 13 11:48 AM
"The lax controls on the accrual system apparently led to the town overpaying five retiring officers more than $44,000 in compensation for unused accrued time off last year." - '‘Troubling’ Practices Subject Of D.A.’s Probe' 11/29/12
By OU812 (161), East Quogue on Apr 5, 13 12:31 PM
Lots of balls dropped by lots of people over lots of years IMO. Too many foxes guarding too many hen houses!

If the Town Board thinks that this recent smoke-screen (of an independent investigation) is going to calm the public down, they are sadly mistaken.

The measure will not even be considered until later this month, plus postponements for fine-tuning, then months for an investigation, then months to write the report, and we are past the November election easily.

"No ...more
By PBR (4953), Southampton on Apr 5, 13 12:38 PM
I saw that, but it appears as though what was "apparently" in Nov or 2012 did not prove to be true under this report.
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Apr 5, 13 12:36 PM
Put them all under oath, as soon as possible, in a federal grand jury, from the Supervisor all the way down to the file clerks at the SHT PD.

"Tear Down That Wall, Mr. Gorbachev!"
By PBR (4953), Southampton on Apr 5, 13 12:41 PM
New article out.

http://www.27east.com/news/article.cfm/General-Interest-Southampton/458450/Southampton-Supervisor-Callls-For-Investigation-Of-Police-Department
By PBR (4953), Southampton on Apr 5, 13 3:24 PM
Not for nothing but the definition of an auditor is someone who comes in after the battle is over and shoots the wounded. statement here is that "it could lead to abuses". Until you actually find something it seems to me just someone is pointing out just change the way it's being
done. End of story.
By Sandflea (35), Southampton on Apr 9, 13 11:51 AM
1 member liked this comment
Well, look into this a little more - the newspaper that rhymes with Tuesday reveals that the town board did not hire them to conduct a true audit and set limited parameters for them to review - i.e. see enough to make a good report. Even so there were problems found.

""We found several minor incorrect payments, and the Department was unable to provide documentation for amounts paid for carry-forward vacation," it said.
But the review also acknowledged the scope was limited.
"We ...more
By OU812 (161), East Quogue on Apr 10, 13 1:33 PM