A city audit has found more than $60,000 in overtime claimed by a Durham police officer "was not justifiable or reasonable" and that lax oversight by department officials contributed to the abuse.
Deputy Chief B.J. Council, who signed off on the overtime, will retire as of Dec. 31, Police Chief Jose Lopez said this afternoon. Beginning Monday, Council will be on personal leave until the end of the year.
Council has been with the Police Department since October 1981, said spokeswoman Kammie Michael.
Lopez and City Manager Tom Bonfield declined comment on the status of Alesha Robinson-Taylor, the officer who improperly claimed the overtime, due to North Carolina state personnel regulations.
Bonfield said he is forwarding the audit that revealed the abuse to District Attorney Tracey Kline's office, but would not speculate on any criminal action.
"That's not the business I'm in," he said.
Bonfield did say the city will act to recover as much of the overtime paid to Robinson-Taylor as possible; however, he said, the actual amount of improper overtime has yet to be determined and could total more than the $62,000 initially reported.
Bonfield said he was alerted to the situation earlier this month by an anonymous email, and ordered an investigation by the city's Audit Services Department rather than relying on the Police Department's internal auditors.
"You can imagine the complications and the doubt that could be generated if there wasn't an indpendent audit team," he said.
Among the audit's findings:
- Based on work logs, Robinson-Taylor, claimed to have worked 79 hours per week, which including working on days while on leave.
- Police Chief Jose Lopez and Deputy Chief Council failed to act when notified of the excessive amount of overtime and compensatory time in April 2009. Even as late as Sept. 11, Robinson-Taylor received $3,128.44 of overtime with no daily supporting documentation for the time claimed.
- The Police Department failed to monitor Robinson-Taylor's work time.
- This was an isolated case; nothing was found to indicate overtime abuse by any other city employee.
"I want to publicly apologize to the citizens of Durham," Bonfield said. "I am personally embarrassed and embarrassed for the Police Department."
Despite this incident, Bonfield said he still has full faith and confidence in Lopez.
"Chief Lopez wouldn't be sitting here if I didn't," he said.