Questions raised about CPD overtime in audit

Questions raised about CPD overtime in audit (WKRC)

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - There are new developments on Friday in the war between Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley and City Manager Harry Black.

The mayor wants Black to resign, but Black has refused.

On Friday afternoon, five Democrats (the majority on city council) called for a cease-fire, with a mediator to help Black and Cranley work together.

Black would stay on the job at least until an outside special attorney reviews the situation and reports back, or at least that’s what the five Democrats would like.

In the meantime, a police overtime audit, which underlies part of the battle, has been pushed to the background.

Police work often requires overtime. Crime does not only happen 9 to 5.

But the audit not only questions the amount of overtime, which amounts to $7.3 million in 2017, but also how some of the overtime was handed out, citing improper or unearned compensation, and inordinate amounts of overtime awarded to selected officers and supervisors.

When the audit was leaked last week to the Cincinnati Enquirer, City Manager Harry Black and Police Chief Eliot Isaac were furious that it got out, but have not specifically addressed what's in it, which Mayor John Cranley finds troubling.

“I am disturbed that there is more worry about a public audit being public than the potential abuse of taxpayer dollars,” said Cranley.

Digging into the numbers shows the “Top 5” overtime earners among captains, lieutenants, and sergeants.

District 5 Commander Bridget Bardua made more in overtime and comp time than any other captain, more than $82,000 in 2017.

But the most overtime in CPD last year went to another District 5 cop. Sergeant Jason Volkerding has more than 2100 hours of overtime and comp time which amounts to $126,000 on top of a sergeant's base pay of $78,000.

How is that possible? The audit shows an example from one month. In September 2017, Volkerding attended nearly 40 hours of meetings on overtime after his regular shift, mostly with Captain Bardua. Some of those meetings are listed as four or five hours long.

And there's something else: “Generator time”.

CPD puts up portable anti-crime lights in various neighborhoods. The generators need to be turned on and turned off.

If you come back after your shift, by contract, it's two hours of overtime, even if it takes just a few minutes.

And if you come in on your off day, it's can be two hours of overtime twice.

Last September, Jason Volkerding got about 25 hours of generator-generated overtime.

The audit checked about 40 other cops. Nobody had generator time in the months examined. Sources tell Local 12 that in other districts, on-duty officers worked the generators, not somebody on overtime approved by the district commander.

It's important to point out the audit does not accuse any specific cops of wrongdoing, but does say, in general, the labor agreement, the union contract, was manipulated to benefit certain individuals. Who? How?

“I believe the public deserves the truth and the public business deserves to be done in public,” said Cranley.

Captain Bardua, in the meantime, has filed a federal sex discrimination and harassment complaint against the city, saying previous white, male commanders were never challenged when they okayed overtime, but upon Captain Bardua's appointment, the rules began to be applied differently.

However this shakes out, police department policy says to avoid overtime whenever possible. But with City Hall embroiled in whether the city manager will stay or go, the topic of avoiding police overtime is being avoided.

“We haven't even been talking about that. That's a serious issue. I know at some point we'll get back to the fact that the overtime budget in the police department seems to not have been managed and not supervised, but we haven't talked about that for two weeks now,” said Cincinnati Councilmember David Mann.

Bridget Bardua and Jason Volkerding are not the only officers whose overtime is in the audit, but they are in the spotlight because Volkerding has the highest amount and Bardua has filed the discrimination complaint which is audit-related.

Bardua's lawyer did not return a call to Local 12 on Friday. Last week, she said they would have no comment beyond the complaint.

Local 12 also left a message for Sergeant Volkerding, as Local 12 had done in last week but he hasn’t returned the call either.

There was no comment on Friday from the police department.

Previously, in a memo to the city manager, Police Chief Eliot Isaac held Assistant Chief Dave Bailey responsible for the leak of the audit, along with other incidents the chief called “insubordination.”

Bailey was forced out by Isaac and the city manager.

Bailey's lawyer vehemently denies any wrongdoing by the former assistant chief.

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