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Nov 28, 2012 11:57 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

District Attorney Looking At Town Police Attendance And Time-Off Payments

Nov 30, 2012 11:17 AM

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota’s office confirmed this week that its investigation of the Southampton Town Police Department is continuing, with a focus on what the lead investigator described as years of “troubling” policies and practices within the department.

The D.A.’s division chief of investigations, Chris McPartland, said this week that his office’s now months-long investigation of the town department has turned its focus to the oversight, recording and tracking of days worked by police officers and time off accrued under the union contracts.

“Our investigation into troubling administrative practices in the Southampton Town Police Department is ongoing,” Mr. McPartland said. “Our review of procedures for maintaining evidence and recording time and accruals to police supervisors goes on.”

Mr. McPartland would not comment on the findings of the investigation, with regard to how time-off accruals—which typically translate into monetary payments, sometimes tens of thousands of dollars, when an officer retires—have been tabulated in the past, but said that investigators plan to issue a report to the town early next year.

The Town Board and comptroller’s office has raised issues about the tracking of police officer time accruals in recent years. The issue was a topic during the interviews for new chiefs in 2011 following the retirement of longtime Chief James Overton. His successor, Chief William Wilson Jr., also used the issue in his ultimately unsuccessful pitch to the Town Board for $700,000 in technological upgrades at the department headquarters.

Following concerns raised earlier this year by new Town Comptroller Len Marchese, the town hired an independent accounting firm to conduct an audit of the police department’s accrual system and reporting.

“We made the decision to do an internal audit of time in attendance, because they use a different system over there than we do here at Town Hall,” Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said this week, adding that she was unaware the issue had become a focus of the D.A.’s investigations of the Town Police. “The comptroller felt there was a need to make sure the process was one that translated into how we calculate it. We had a number of retirements go out, and we wanted to reassure ourselves that the calculations that were made for those payouts were done properly.”

The supervisor added that the audit did not uncover any discrepancies or concerns as a result of the accountants’ analysis. But a draft version of the audit obtained by The Press, written by accountants from Cullen & Danowski C.P.A., paints a picture of a loosely overseen system of attendance and accrual tracking that does not log who makes entries to time records—and, in some cases, allows supervisory officers to edit their own records. 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.

The auditors also detail that in a limited sampling of selected officers’ time records, they uncovered several discrepancies between accrual reporting and the actual apparent time logged on the job. In one instance, an officer failed to work the full number of annual days required under his union contract. In another instance, the auditors found that the department’s activity log had no activity entries for an officer on two separate days that he was shown as being on duty. In others, various officers exceeded the number of sick days allowed in their contracts.

Southampton Town Patrolman’s Benevolent Association Vice President Kevin Gwinn said, “I’m not familiar with any problems with accruals with the police department ... but members of the PBA do not have any control of documenting accruals. As a PBA member I can only request an addition to an accrual, but I don’t have the right to approve it.”

The auditors noted that Chief Wilson had implemented a slight change to the system that required that any superior officer who was entering and approving his own time records notify the chief via email to verify the entry.

Reached by telephone, Chief Wilson, who resigned earlier this month and will officially retire from the department on December 1, said that the concerns with oversight of the time records was something he had tried to resolve throughout his 18-month tenure with the town: “I expressed my concern regarding time off multiple times to the Town Board. Whether it’s mistakes or intentional manipulation of records, you’re talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensated absence time that people are entitled to. God forbid anybody shine a light on it ... you become an albatross very quickly.”

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Hmmmmm -- could former Chief Wilson have known this was coming and got out while the getting was good?
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Nov 29, 12 6:14 PM
Hmmmm sounds like Chief Wilson tried to bring all this to the Town Board and they wanted nothing to do with it. Another thing the board was trying to sweep under the carpet for the "Good Ole Boys". I wonder what else has been brought to there attention that they won't touch, a complete disservice to the taxpayers.
By mrobin (121), North Sea on Nov 29, 12 7:13 PM
1 member liked this comment
Yes exactly! And the money they spent in payouts would have paid for the new software that Chief Wilson wanted which would have helped prevent this and ultimately saved the town a large sum of money in the long run. Malone and Nuzzi should be running for the hills with their tails between their legs. If anyone is costing the town money it's those two.
By lifesaver (118), speonk on Dec 1, 12 7:53 AM
Is there more corrupt than a small town police force?
By Hambone (514), New York on Nov 29, 12 8:43 PM
Two small town police forces..
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Nov 29, 12 10:36 PM
Sounds like the Spota and his lackies counldn't substantiate any of Wilson's charges and is now trying to save face.
By ridiculous (214), hampton bays on Nov 29, 12 8:49 PM
1 member liked this comment
No wonder why the suspended Lt. did not wince when the board took 75 days from him after he plead guilty to five charges.  It's like money in the bank.
By jailhouserock (1), Hampton Bays on Nov 29, 12 9:09 PM
Maybe Wilson saw such a disgusting history of the SHTPD he made a call to the DA. I know at least four cops who retired with alledged injuries and one is quite the golfer. It's time to disband these bunch of disfunctional cops and make a deal with the county sheriffs. My favorite part is yet making another veteran lackey like Pearce the chief. He has been there for 30 years and did zero.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Nov 29, 12 9:30 PM
1 member liked this comment
Predator Nation, son.

Predator Nation.

Segue, or allegory.

Your choice...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Nov 29, 12 9:46 PM
Sacre bleu! Our gendarmes have cooked the books to get paid for not working at all. Quelle surpirse!

Insubordinate PBA leaders, millions to come in false arrest awards, and now this. What more has yet to be revealed?

Time to seal off this midden and find another way of protecting the public.
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Nov 29, 12 11:20 PM
And when Chief Wilson tried to fix the problem you bashed him also.
By Spinny OHO (94), Speonk on Nov 30, 12 9:09 PM
"millions to come in false arrest awards"

Substantiate please
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Nov 30, 12 9:18 AM
to Nature:

The Press article that described the DA's release of two men convicted illegally due to malfeasance by an STPD officer noted that Southampton Town was ill-prepared for the damage suits to follow from them and others whose arrests were tainted by the STPD cop/addict who participated in the busts.

How much ARE juries awarding lately to persons incarcerated by corrupt cops?
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Nov 30, 12 11:28 AM
HHS-lets not forget about his supervisor who gave him approval to do so. Who is more at fault the officer with a substance abuse problem or his supervisor who knew about it and let him continue to interact with the public?
By sunnydays (43), Hampton Bays on Nov 30, 12 6:55 PM
Note on the national news front that Camden NJ is moving to abolish their local police force. Now they are doing it as a cost savings measure but the volley has clearly gone across the bow in that any small town police force that can't justify its existence or abuses its power is open to be being disbanded. I could never figure out why WHB and Quogue had a full time police force when 9 of the 12 months it was not needed. Remsenburg, Speonk, Quiogue all get by just fine w/o a designated force.
By Hambone (514), New York on Dec 2, 12 12:10 PM
WHB and Quogue as well as Southampton and Sag Harbor are incorporated villages. AT some point in time they wanted control over their police departments and formed their own.
Remsenburg, Quiogue and Speonk are UNincorprated hamlets. (i.e. there exists no municipal governments) They are governed by the Town of Southampton.
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Dec 2, 12 5:28 PM
But I'm Blank makes a good argument, which I'll augment by pointing out the biggest gainer for the villages - revenue. When an incorporated village uses an outside police force (like STPD or SCPD) they don't get to see the revenue of tickets written in their communities. So, by having your own force and your own courts - you get to keep all the money. Now, wether it makes financial sense to do so - I can't answer that, but it's a big argument that local governments like to make
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Dec 2, 12 5:31 PM
Even more compelling, villages such as North Haven and Sagaponack who pay combined 3.2 Million Dollars to Southampton Town do not even received the police services they are promised and entitled to.
By sunnydays (43), Hampton Bays on Dec 2, 12 5:41 PM
I'm a Blank - noted but wholly related ot the proposition
Nature/Sunny Days - very cogent points. You now have the making of a reasonable financial model. What's it cost to have you own police force? What is the nominal benefit? What would it cost to pay Southampton to do the work. What level of service would you get? What level of service do you give up? And maybe most importantly...exactly how many crimes are committed in a particular community in the off season vs the regular season? ...more
By Hambone (514), New York on Dec 3, 12 11:14 PM
Northaven should give their million dollars to Sag Harbor for services. Then maybe Sag Harbor would be able to afford their Police Dept., which has a 2.2 million dollar budget.
By theprogram (37), east quogue on Dec 2, 12 6:08 PM
The Town should approach the companies that provide sworn contract corrections personnel for California and inquire if they are interested in bidding on a sworn p.d. contract for Southamton. The cost will be a small fraction of any other alternative, the contract can require the winning bidder to absorb any expenses due to police misfeasance, the protection will be superior, and the cops will display the deference of the STPD of old.

It's the obvious solution to an intractable problem ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Dec 3, 12 12:03 PM
Yes, because contractors working in "corrections" would fit very well into this community as law enforcement offices.
Again, please tell us where this has been done in any municipality, anywhere.
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Dec 3, 12 3:15 PM
to But Ilm a blank!:

Quote: "Again, please tell us where this [contract police] has been done in any municipality, anywhere."
- - -
The San Francisco Patrol Special Police, in existence for 164 years, patrol areas of San Francisco in SFPD uniform by private contract. They are not civil service employees and receive no civil service, health, or pension benefits from the city.

The Town Council needs only float the proposal. ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Dec 3, 12 6:51 PM
"God forbid anybody shine a light on it ... you become an albatross very quickly.”

Considering most starve to death on a stomach full of plastic, and nineteen of the twenty one species are endangered, well, maybe the albatrosses aren't the only ones...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Dec 3, 12 7:52 PM
Those are "square badge" mall cops. They do not do police work. Quite certain a citizen would not be happy to see them at their door in an emergency. ( that is your opportunity to make a snide comeback)
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Dec 3, 12 11:08 PM
Glad you could make sense of what Mr. Z said...I was still stuck on albatrosses....
By Hambone (514), New York on Dec 3, 12 11:15 PM
Did you ever check to see if your pipe dream is even legal in the state of New York? Who is going to put these rent-a-cops through an appropriate police academy, how long will it take and who will be on the lawsuit hook the first time one of these guys pulls a Zimmerman?

You've put his dead horse in front of the cart for years and you continue to beat it; come back to reality. The guy who pulled you over is probably long retired by now.
Dec 3, 12 11:55 PM appended by VOS
"...put THIS dead horse...
By VOS (1241), WHB on Dec 3, 12 11:55 PM
Training costs are minimal. The "special patrol force" at one time numbered 250+. They are paid by business owners. They lost their arrest powers in the mid 90s and are now down to 18. Good find HHS.
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Dec 4, 12 12:27 AM
to VOS & But I'm a blank!:

The San Francisco Patrol Special Police exist within the jurisdiction of a civil service police force every bit as protective of its own interests as the STPD. The fact that the regular SFPD has been unable to crush the SFPSP in 164 years is proof of its value. (Although the civil service cops have very NEARLY succeeded.) Can you imagine what the STPD would do to a similar force in Southampton?

I am unable to find any statutory prohibition against contract ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Dec 4, 12 11:39 AM
Because you are ignoring one basic fact. The San Francisco Patrol Special Police are nothing more than armed security guards. They already exist in Southampton. The "Special Police" do NOT have any police powers. They can only make civilian arrest and do not answer calls for service.
What I think is funny is you are advocating for $65 an hour "Special Police" when an armed security guard can probably be hired for about $40 an hour. Your plans saving money already!!
By Spinny OHO (94), Speonk on Dec 4, 12 12:22 PM
HHS - when will you be running for Town Council? If you REALLY want these things to happen, the best way is to put your $$$ where your mouth is. I'm sure you have a litany of reasons to NOT run though (one of them being fear of retribution from the police, the others being vague and unclear - like the reasons for not disclosing your STPD tax bill)

Additionally, if the Town did what you suggest, it would result in lawsuits costing the town MORE $$$ (that will solve the fiscal crisis). ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Dec 4, 12 12:14 PM
to Spinny OHO:

I 1994, the regular San Francisco Police succeeded in having the the arrest powers that the San Francisco Patrol Special Police had enjoyed FOR LONGER THAN THE SFPD HAD BEEN IN EXISTENCE stripped from them. Guess why? Until then, they had been fully authorized city police under private contract AND their employers were well-satisfied with their performance.

"I" am advocating spending $65/hr for cops? Ridiculous. A contract police patrolman would earn a fraction ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Dec 4, 12 3:14 PM
The S.F. Patrol Special Police never had Police Status. They were Peace Officers at the most.
Example - If they were hired as security for a business they could issue you a ticket for parking in the businesses privately owned parking lot. If an actual crime occured, the S.F. Patrol Special Polce would have had to call a real Police Officer.
Now they are just armed security people for business and wealthy clients. And yes they do charge $65 an hour, moe than the $40 an hour for armed security ...more
By Spinny OHO (94), Speonk on Dec 4, 12 3:51 PM

Spinny is right. According to 2010 figures - they charged upwards of $60/hr. Here is where your argument for using such a service in Southampton falls apart:

1. They do NOT have police powers. They have the same "arrest" powers as citizens.

2. They are hired by PRIVATE companies to protect PRIVATE property. Yes, we could use such an organization for the Boardy Barn/Neptunes instead of having so many real police outside - but that can be done through requirements ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Dec 4, 12 4:21 PM
Why spell out your wifes name. Just say my wife, Linda. Thats right Lance, lets attack our police force again because she got arrested. All your comments began attacking town workers since your wife was in office. Remember this is the guy thats teaching your children.
By khan (36), hampton bays on Dec 9, 12 12:41 AM
khan - not for nothin' but what proof do you have that HHS is Lance? I would imagine that if it were, in fact, Mr. Kabot that he would have far more knowledge relating to insider Town info than he leads on. He rarely posts facts, numbers or anecdotes that a person like Lance would have at his disposal. Unless of course you think he is so diabolical as to mask all of his insider knowledge.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Dec 10, 12 3:26 PM