Capitol Police Suspend Three Supervisors for False Overtime Claims

The alleged misconduct is the latest in a string of controversies to surface at the department.

US Capitol Police stand guard in front of the US Capitol ahead of US President Obama's State of the Union adress in Washington, DC, February 12, 2013. AFP PHOTO/Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
National Journal
Billy House
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Billy House
June 30, 2014, 4:59 p.m.

Three Cap­it­ol Po­lice su­per­visors from the unit that provides pro­tect­ive se­cur­ity teams for House and Sen­ate lead­ers and oth­er law­makers were sus­pen­ded and ordered to pay back thou­sands of dol­lars from false over­time claims in­ten­ded to get around de­part­ment­al lim­its.

One of the sus­pen­ded su­per­visors, a lieu­ten­ant, re­tired this spring from the de­part­ment after the ad­min­is­trat­ive ac­tions were handed down. The oth­er two, both cap­tains, have been re­as­signed out of the 150-of­ficer Dig­nit­ary Pro­tec­tion Di­vi­sion to oth­er units.

“The U.S. Cap­it­ol Po­lice does not dis­cuss per­son­nel mat­ters,” the de­part­ment said in a state­ment Monday. However, a de­part­ment source on Monday con­firmed ad­min­is­trat­ive ac­tion has been taken against the three of­ficers in the form of sus­pen­sions and or­ders to pay back money. A spe­cif­ic dol­lar fig­ure for the re­funds be­ing de­man­ded or the lengths of the sus­pen­sions were not provided.

The over­time-pay is­sue is the latest in what has been a re­cent string of neg­at­ive news com­ing from in­side the Cap­it­ol Po­lice De­part­ment. Last month, de­tails leaked out about one of the de­part­ment’s five deputy chiefs be­ing un­der scru­tiny be­cause of com­plaints that he en­gaged in an in­ap­pro­pri­ate ro­mantic re­la­tion­ship with a sub­or­din­ate. Later came word that fed­er­al au­thor­it­ies have charged the ci­vil­ian head of the de­part­ment’s Of­fice of Di­versity with steal­ing pub­lic funds in a mat­ter re­lated to her pre­vi­ous job at Im­mig­ra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment.

The new­est chapter in the de­part­ment’s ex­pand­ing book of troubles ac­tu­ally began nearly two years ago. De­tails of the mat­ter were first provided to Na­tion­al Journ­al two weeks ago by Rhoda Hende­r­son, a ser­geant who re­tired last year from the de­part­ment after 20 years and who says the money paid out for phony over­time claims ex­ceeds $10,000, though she could not spe­cify.

In mul­tiple in­ter­views, Hende­r­son re­coun­ted how she had ini­tially brought the ques­tion­able over­time billing by the three su­per­visors to de­part­ment of­fi­cials start­ing in the sum­mer of 2012. She said that in­cluded talk­ing to the In­tern­al Af­fairs Di­vi­sion (now called the Of­fice of Pro­fes­sion­al Re­spons­ib­il­ity) and the Cap­it­ol Po­lice Of­fice of In­spect­or Gen­er­al.

Hende­r­son said she also provided those of­fi­cials with doc­u­ment­a­tion to back up her claims. “There was no doubt. It was an easy trail to fol­low,” said Hende­r­son, who pre­vi­ously was em­ployed as a sher­iff’s deputy in Louisi­ana.

Hende­r­son ex­plained that she de­cided last month to talk to Na­tion­al Journ­al be­cause noth­ing had yet been pub­licly re­leased about the de­part­ment’s hand­ling of the mat­ter. She said she wasn’t sure what if any­thing had res­ul­ted from her ef­forts to bring at­ten­tion to the mat­ter.

“Had this been me or any oth­er of­ficer (those not part of com­mand staff) who would have com­mit­ted this crime — we would have been fired. There’s no doubt in my mind,” she said. “Nor would we have been al­lowed to sit in our jobs for more than a year without a de­cision be­ing made.”

Hende­r­son’s firsthand know­ledge of the Dig­nit­ary Pro­tec­tion Di­vi­sion’s over­time-pay re­cords comes through her role as its “op­er­a­tions ser­geant” man­aging as­sign­ments of per­son­nel to dif­fer­ent se­cur­ity de­tails.

She also main­tained the sched­ules for vari­ous se­cur­ity teams, and provided over­sight of of­fice clerks who manu­ally enter in elec­tron­ic in­form­a­tion about travel vouch­ers and of­ficers’ time and at­tend­ance on the job.

The Dig­nit­ary Pro­tec­tion Di­vi­sion provides reg­u­lar se­cur­ity de­tails for lead­ers of both parties in the House and Sen­ate, such as the House speak­er and Sen­ate ma­jor­ity lead­er. It also provides spe­cial se­cur­ity for oth­er law­makers who have re­ceived threats, and for groups of law­makers at­tend­ing polit­ic­al con­ven­tions or tak­ing con­gres­sion­al del­eg­a­tion trips to­geth­er, if such pro­tec­tion is re­ques­ted by the House or Sen­ate ser­geants-at-arms.

Hende­r­son said she began mon­it­or­ing what ap­peared to her to be in­ap­pro­pri­ate “time shift­ing” by the su­per­visors of their over­time hours “be­hind my back” on their bi­weekly pay re­cords in Janu­ary 2010. She said the of­ficers were mov­ing some of their claimed over­time hours from pay peri­ods when they ex­ceeded de­part­ment­al bi­weekly caps to oth­er pay peri­ods when the hours were not ac­tu­ally worked.

“An­oth­er em­ploy­ee men­tioned to me in an off­hand way that the lieu­ten­ant had asked her to ‘move time,’ ” Hende­r­son said.

Un­der de­part­ment­al rules, an­nu­al pay for of­ficers can­not ex­ceed the House speak­er’s $223,500 base salary, and any two-week amount can­not ex­ceed the speak­er’s bi­weekly base salary of about $8,596.

The over­time shift­ing was a way to get around those bi­weekly caps. But, Hende­r­son said, “a lot of seni­or of­ficers in the same situ­ation were not do­ing this.” When she dis­covered the scheme, Hende­r­son said she began to re­quire that spe­cial cler­ic­al nota­tions be made on the elec­tron­ic time and at­tend­ance re­cords to doc­u­ment what the three su­per­visors were do­ing in shift­ing ex­cess over­time to oth­er pay peri­ods.

Hende­r­son said she first brought her con­cerns to In­tern­al Af­fairs inn the sum­mer 2012 at a time when the su­per­visors were away provid­ing or man­aging se­cur­ity for law­makers at the Demo­crat­ic and Re­pub­lic­an na­tion­al con­ven­tions.

She said she raised the ques­tion: “Is there something wrong here? This doesn’t seem right.” But Hende­r­son said an In­tern­al Af­fairs of­fi­cial brusquely ques­tioned her about why she thought any­thing was wrong. Then, she said, there was in­tim­a­tion that any of­fi­cial com­plaint could also lead to a re­view and po­ten­tially some blame with re­gard to her own ac­tions — that “they would turn this in­to our is­sue,” she said.

Hende­r­son said she then dropped that ap­proach and went to the in­spect­or gen­er­al, who took all of the doc­u­ment­a­tion. But she has not heard from that of­fice since then.

Hende­r­son said last week that no de­part­ment­al ac­tion was ever taken against her.

A de­part­ment­al source, who asked not to be iden­ti­fied by name, down­played Hende­r­son’s role and de­scribed the ad­min­is­trat­ive ac­tions against the three su­per­visors as the res­ult of a more gen­er­al in­tern­al de­part­ment audit. But the de­part­ment was dis­cuss­ing few de­tails of the mat­ter, even un­der that scen­ario.

“If these al­leg­a­tions are true, this is crim­in­al in nature, not ad­min­is­trat­ive by any means,” said Jim Kon­czos, chair­man of the Cap­it­ol Po­lice Labor Com­mit­tee’s ex­ec­ut­ive board. “This con­duct should res­ult in ter­min­a­tion, noth­ing less. We can’t have su­per­visors steal­ing time and/or money; this con­duct be­sides be­ing crim­in­al, im­pairs the ef­fi­ciency and repu­ta­tion of the De­part­ment,” Kon­czos said in a state­ment.

Kon­czos ad­ded that he be­lieves Con­gress will have to de­mand ac­count­ab­il­ity from the Cap­it­ol Po­lice Board, which in­cludes Po­lice Chief Kim Dine. “There is a cul­ture in the De­part­ment in which su­per­visors are held to a lower stand­ard, even when the con­duct is crim­in­al, that is com­pletely un­ac­cept­able,” he said.

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