Bruce Brodoff Communications
Bruce Brodoff Communications
State police audit found OT abuse
By Sandy McClure

Questions about payroll patterns at the New Jersey State Police also extend to its overtime spending.

Even before the Port Authority bill became an issue, an internal State Police investigation, conducted in August 2002 under then-Superintendent Joseph Santiago, documented overtime abuse at the Newark Liberty International Airport post during 9/11-related duty.

The internal investigation report states a "painstaking" collection and review of overtime records of the top seven overtime earners at the airport from late 2001 to early 2002 showed systemic problems.

"I found it was prevalent that a supervisor's signature did not appear on many of the weekly activity reports, cycle activity reports and the overtime daily activity patrol logs," the internal investigation report stated. "Furthermore, it was very clear that, although these seven troopers had been assigned to the Newark Airport security detail as core members, they were permitted to take an astronomical amount of time off their scheduled tour to work the very same post as supplemental overtime. Simply, these troopers were permitted to work for themselves at an overtime rate of pay, as opposed to a straight-time rate of pay."

From Oct. 6, 2001, to Feb. 22, 2002, one sergeant first class worked 548 hours of overtime, at a rate of $65.67 an hour, for a total of $35,986, according to the report. Of the 70 days he was scheduled to work, he worked 47. During that period, however, he worked 36 days of overtime.

Part of the overtime was accumulated when the trooper took 14 vacation days and worked 10 of them as overtime and took eight holidays and worked all of them as overtime.

In addition to outlining a system where troopers worked overtime for regularly scheduled days, the internal report said the trooper in charge of supplemental overtime told the investigator, "There were no real checks or balances in place to determine whether or not a core trooper intentionally submitted a supplemental overtime patrol charge when in fact the trooper had worked the shift at straight time."

Davy Jones, president of the State Troopers Fraternal Association, said although oversight might have been a problem, the internal report is wrong.

"That is a lazy prevarication from a bean counter," Jones said. "That is nothing more than an opinion. It is an anecdotal reflection that would never stand the light of critical review."

When the World Trade Center was attacked in 2001, acting Gov. Donald DiFrancesco was in office, John Farmer was attorney general and Carson Dunbar was superintendent of New Jersey State Police.

State police coverage at the Port Authority continued for seven months, into the early portion of Gov. James E. McGreevey's tenure.

New Jersey State Police was headed by acting Superintendent Fred Madden Jr. from January to March 2002, then again from October 2002 to February 2003, when he replaced Joseph Santiago. Madden, records show, ordered an internal review of overtime after the straight-time bill to the Port Authority was questioned at the end of 2002.

In December 2002, a review of the 10 highest overtime earners by the State Police Office of Professional Standards showed a confusing and duplicative payroll system opening the door to double payments.

"None of the 10 members reconciled, and the propriety of their overtime disbursements could not be established with certainty," the overtime report stated.

Of the 8,143 hours of overtime earned by the 10 troopers between the Sept. 11, 2001, attack and May 3, 2002, 78 hours, involving three members, were labeled as "possibly paid twice."

"These errors were the direct result of the current system allowing multiple tracks to payroll for identical hours," the audit report stated. "With all hours reported in bulk, duplicate hours cannot be detected."

When the error rate for the top 10 earners was determined to be less than 1 percent, officials expressed relief but ordered changes in the payroll system. Three troopers repaid 54 hours of overtime, or $3,110.

"I have directed the appropriate personnel to implement recommended corrective actions to eliminate any repetitive errors during future operations," Madden, now a state senator, wrote on Jan. 27, 2003. "I anticipate these safeguards being in place no later than February 22, 2003."

Federal Emergency Management Agency spokesman Bruce Brodoff said the federal agency had all the backup documents it needed to pay $16.5 million in 9/11-related overtime costs for the New Jersey State Police.

He said the federal agency reimbursed the state for all overtime charged for the first six weeks after the disaster.

After that, the federal agency simply looked at the cost of New Jersey State Police overtime for several prior years and then paid costs that ran above that amount. He said that calculation was unique to the World Trade Center disaster.

State police overtime costs were $23.9 million in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2001, according to New Jersey State Police. The next year costs rose to $45 million. After dropping to $31 million in 2003 and near $32 million in 2004, overtime costs reached $34.5 million in fiscal year 2005, New Jersey State Police said.

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