By Maria Mirakaj Brownsell
Recently a Clarkstown police officer, William Sherwood, resigned his position after being accused of filing for overtime that he did not complete. Sherwood worked for Clarkstown for more than 10 years. After the investigation on his overtime confirmed that he was not actually working during four hours that he filed for, Chief Michael Sullivan proposed an audit of all the overtime filed by his police office in 2012 that pertained to court hearings.
“If something happens in my house, it’s my responsibility to fix it,” said Sullivan.
At Clarkstown’s Town Board Workshop meeting on April 23, Sullivan went over the details of the investigation for the board and for the public. The point of the audit was to look for any overtime that was put in that was not actually worked. It was not to check into how much money was spent on overtime or to check that the overtime worked was necessary. The investigation was to make sure for every hour of overtime submitted, the proper officer’s presence could be verified.
Sullivan explained how in the past, overtime was basically done with the honor system. More recently, the police department acquired a computer program that allowed them to keep better track of time worked. Unfortunately, it took too much time to enter the hours in as they were worked, so they would still be handwritten and left to a clerk to enter at a later date.
The first phase of the investigation was to verify that each officer was actually where he said he was at every moment. In order to do that, they checked the sign in sheets at courts. Unfortunately, not every court has sign in sheets and the ones that do don’t enforce actually signing into them. If the officer’s name appeared on the sheet than his name could be crossed off the list, but if it wasn’t on the list, then the investigators had to move on to the next verification method. For criminal court they went to the district attorney to see if he was there. For Clarkstown court, they checked if tickets were settled. For civil court, they called the civil attorneys. Sullivan said that the DMV was the hardest to verify as they don’t keep any records unless a hearing occurred and they had to subpoena the DMV of Albany to get records.
In all 696 overtime submissions out of the 704 total submissions were confirmed in these ways, said Sullivan. Those last eight had to be looked into deeper. They checked EZ pass records and listened to audio tapes from court dates.
“It’s not easy. It’s very time consuming,” said Sullivan. “Out of those eight, there were two that we couldn’t verify.”
After interviewing those two officers, their PBA delegates, and other officers that were present, they were able to confirm the overtime. With a total of 2,778 hours of court related overtime, only Sherwood’s four hours were unverified. Every other hour of overtime was confirmed in one of the painstaking methods listed.
For the future of the court related overtime submissions, there will be new methods to make sure all hours are accounted for. The supervisor on duty will be responsible to sign the officer in and out for their overtime. There will be a new punch clock type system in the computer. Subpoenas will be kept forever. Ovetime sheets will be more specific as to the type of court. They are also making a request for sign in sheets at the courts, DMV, and district attorney’s office.
Town Supervisor Alexander Gromack thanked Chief Sullivan for giving an in depth snapshot of the audit investigation.
“I think the recommendation to immediately enter all overtime in the computer makes a lot of sense,” said Councilwoman Stephanie Hausner.
Resident Michael Hull asked Sullivan if there were any other abuses by Officer Sherwood beyond the four hours of overtime he submitted and resigned over. Sullivan said they only looked into those four hours and could not verify that there were other hours involved.