WRAL Investigates

Audit: Durham police chief dismissed overtime concerns

Posted September 30, 2009 10:32 a.m. EDT
Updated September 30, 2009 5:32 p.m. EDT

— Durham's deputy police chief signed off on thousands of dollars in overtime for one officer in the past year, according to a released Wednesday.

Managers within the Durham Police Department also raised questions about the overtime with Chief Jose Lopez on at least one occasion, but he dismissed their concerns, according to the audit.

City Manager Tom Bonfield said the audit findings will be turned over to the Durham County District Attorney's Office to determine if any criminal charges are warranted. The State Bureau of Investigation also could get involved in the case because of the police department's working relationship with local prosecutors.

"I am personally embarrassed, but also I really am embarrassed for the Durham Police Department," Bonfield said at a Wednesday afternoon news conference to discuss the audit.

He ordered an audit into overtime at the police department about four weeks ago after receiving an e-mail from a Durham resident. The investigation was handled by city auditors, who are independent of the police department.

A review of Durham Police Department payroll records by WRAL News shows Alesha Robinson-Taylor was paid $59,545 from last October through July. The overtime was more than her $52,665 annual salary.

WRAL News reviewed overtime records for the rest of the police department and found no similar cases in recent months.

Bonfield said the city would seek reimbursement of about $40,000 to $45,000 from Robinson-Taylor. He said personnel laws precluded him from discussing possible disciplinary actions she might face.

The 12-year veteran of the police department coordinates off-duty jobs for officers, handles alcohol permits and schedules towing services.

Lopez said she is on leave, but declined to comment further. The audit notes that her duties have been split among other officers.

Auditors determined Robinson-Taylor would have had to work 79 hours per week, including the 16 weeks she was on leave, to accumulate the amount of overtime she claimed. Time sheets, phone records and e-mail logs couldn't substantiate the amount of overtime, the audit states.

The audit found that Deputy Chief B.J. Council approved 10 months worth of overtime logs for Robinson-Taylor without any documentation. Robinson-Taylor's supervisor was reassigned last fall after questioning Council about the excessive overtime, according to the audit.

The overtime was brought to Lopez's attention in April, but he said the amount Robinson-Taylor was accumulating "did not seem out of line" and said suspicions weren't warranted without documentation, the audit states.

Lopez said Wednesday that he spoke to his staff about curbing the overtime and was waiting to learn how much money was involved. He didn't ask for an audit.

"To be quite frank with you, I expected that to be automatic," he said.

Lopez said Council has filed her retirement notice, effective Dec. 31. She plans to begin using her accrued leave next week, he said.

Neither Council nor Robinson-Taylor could be reached Wednesday for comment.

Auditors recommended that the department tighten its overtime oversight and documentation and analyze the workload of the officer who coordinates off-duty jobs for officers to determine whether the position needs to be revamped.

Bonfield said he still has confidence in the police department's leadership, noting Lopez wouldn't have been sitting next to him at the news conference if he didn't believe in him.

Lopez, who termed the audit's findings "a blemish" on Durham and the police department, said he takes full responsibility for mistakes made under his command.