Audit: Cincinnati police OT nosedives at District 5 amid ‘felony theft’ claim

Audit: Cincinnati police OT nosedives at District 5 amid ‘felony theft’ claim
FOX19 NOW/File (Source: WXIX)

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Cincinnati police overtime nosedived by a total of more than $160,000 in three units at District 5 the first part of 2018 compared with the same time period the previous year, a new audit shows.

The reason for such a dramatic drop is not explained in the interdepartmental audit, which is posted on the city’s website.

This comes as Cincinnati leaders await the release of the city’s annual state audit. It is one that scrutinized police overtime spending of taxpayer dollars at the request of Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters.

The prosecutor asked state auditors to get involved after Mayor John Cranley called him when a federal lawsuit by a veteran police captain alleged “illegal abuse” by officers scamming the system for more pay while Police Chief Eliot Isaac turned a blind eye.

We reached out to Cincinnati police for a comment Monday and again Tuesday but have not heard back. We will update this story if we do.

Last year, when the state auditor’s review of CPD overtime was announced, the agency released a prepared statement:

“Chief Eliot K. Isaac welcomes this transparent review and will provide more comments once the Ohio State Auditor review is complete. The Cincinnati Police Department intends to continue to review of its overtime management practices to ensure compliance with the City’s Internal Audit recommendations for overtime use."

RELATED | Draft audit of CPD overtime: ‘Intentional actions to maximize compensation’ | Prosecutor asks state auditor to review CPD overtime amid ‘illegal’ abuse claims

Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac (FOX19 NOW/file)
Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac (FOX19 NOW/file)

In December, Cincinnati Councilmen David Mann and Greg Landsman asked for an update on police overtime spending as the city faced a $19 million deficit. It’s not clear when Council will be publicly briefed.

Last month, police officials quietly unveiled new overtime procedures requiring more oversight and documentation.

The latest semi-annual police overtime audit reviewed the first 13 pay periods of 2018.

Overtime totaled $4.6 million with about $1.3 reimbursable, wrote Captain Dennis Swingley of Inspections Section in a Dec. 10 memo to the chief.

The amounts reflect total overtime compensation, which includes paid overtime and the current value of overtime taken in compensatory time, his memo states.

Part of the audit shows overtime doled out at the six police districts including Central Business Section (Downtown) compared to the same time period in 2017, records show.

The difference in overtime costs at District 5′s specialized units is startling.

Overtime in its three units is down a total of $161,151.71, according to the audit:

  • Investigative Unit plunged by $76,403.28, from $144,828.92 to $68,425.64
  • Neighborhood Liaison Unit fell $108,760.04 to $47,389.44. That’s a difference of $61,370.60
  • Violent Crimes Squad went from $92,430.94 to $69,053.11, a reduction of $23,377.83
Cincinnati police records show a breakdown of police overtime for the first 13 pay periods of 2018 compared with 2017. There is a dramatic drop in overtime at District 5. (Photo: FOX19 NOW/Jennifer Edwards Baker)
Cincinnati police records show a breakdown of police overtime for the first 13 pay periods of 2018 compared with 2017. There is a dramatic drop in overtime at District 5. (Photo: FOX19 NOW/Jennifer Edwards Baker)

The audit also looked at the top five overtime earners from each rank and then randomly selected one member from several specialized units such as Internal Investigations and Planning as well as randomly selected three officers in each district and remaining sections, Swingley wrote the chief.

The current District 5 commander, Captain Doug Wiesman, earned a total of $19,455.45 in the first 13 pay periods of 2018, records show.

He didn’t become D5′s leader until March 2018 when the chief shuffled several staff members in reassignments.

A draft of the previous interdepartmental audit, turned over to Issac in early 2018, concluded the previous District 5 commander, Captain Bridget Bardua, collected overtime and compensatory pay valued at about $80,000 in all of 2017, about $20,000 more than any other district commander.

It also found she approved overtime and compensatory time for two District 5 sergeants worth at least $90,000 each.

Cincinnati police officials have disputed the audit’s findings, calling it a draft that was leaked to the media that was not a final version.

They have since released what they say are updated, accurate figures.

Bardua and one of her sergeants who had the highest overtime in the previous draft audit, Jason Voelkerding, are no longer at District 5.

Voelkerding is now a District 4 lieutenant and Bardua oversees Special Investigations.

Voelkerding’s overtime is listed as just over $126,000 in the draft audit.

The other D5 sergeant listed as a high overtime earner, Jason Scott, remains in District 5. His overtime in the previous draft audit was about $92,000.

The three are not among officers whose overtime pay was sampled during the most recent audit.

Here are the top paid five personnel for each rank.

Cincinnati police records show the overtime among the top five paid personnel for each rank in the first part of 2018 compared to the same 13 pay period in 2017. These are total overtime compensation including paid overtime, and current value of overtime taken in compensatory time. (Photo: FOX19 NOW/Jennifer Edwards Baker)
Cincinnati police records show the overtime among the top five paid personnel for each rank in the first part of 2018 compared to the same 13 pay period in 2017. These are total overtime compensation including paid overtime, and current value of overtime taken in compensatory time. (Photo: FOX19 NOW/Jennifer Edwards Baker)

The previous audit set off a political firestorm at City Hall.

Shortly after it was turned over to the chief for his review in early 2018, Bardua filed a sexual discrimination complaint.

She accused two assistant chiefs, Dave Bailey and Paul Neudigate - who was Bardua’s direct supervisor at the time - and Captain Jeff Butler, of singling her out in the audit because she’s a woman and “also because I support an African American Chief of Cincinnati Police.”

The day after media reports about her complaint, a copy of the last audit was leaked to media.

Cincinnati Police Captain Bridget Bardua (Photo: Cincinnati Police Department)
Cincinnati Police Captain Bridget Bardua (Photo: Cincinnati Police Department)

The city manager at the time, Harry Black, was so upset over the leak, he called for federal prosecutors to investigate what he described as a “rogue element" corrupt in the police department in an effort to undermine the police chief’s authority.

Two days after the audit was leaked, Bailey was forced out.

CPD’s 2nd in command: I was ousted after audit found ‘exorbitant amounts’ of OT

The day after Bailey left, the mayor asked Black to resign. The mayor later explained he asked him to go over a pattern of “abusive” and “retaliatory" behavior.

Black refused go to, and an intense public feud exploded between the two men.

Mayor John Cranley shakes then-Executive Assistant Police Chief David Bailey's hand at his February 2016 promotion ceremony. Then-City Manager Harry Black is pictured in between them. (Photo: Provided by the City of Cincinnati)
Mayor John Cranley shakes then-Executive Assistant Police Chief David Bailey's hand at his February 2016 promotion ceremony. Then-City Manager Harry Black is pictured in between them. (Photo: Provided by the City of Cincinnati)

A month later, Black resigned seconds before a special City Council meeting was called to order to fire him. By then, he’d lost majority council support in the wake of the Kyle Plush tragedy.

Shortly after Black left, Butler amended a federal lawsuit he originally filed in September 2017 against Black and and other city officials,, this time naming the chief and alleging “felony theft” of police overtime.

That prompted Deters to get involved.

He asked then-State Auditor Dave Yost to look into police overtime.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters (Photo: Cincinnati Enquirer/file)
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters (Photo: Cincinnati Enquirer/file) (Source: Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters (Cincinnati Enquirer/file))

Auditors also looked at how the city spent money it received from state fees for emergency services.

Butler’s lawsuit also accuses Black of putting that money into the general fund instead of earmarking it for emergency services such as the city’s 911 center.

Yost decided to fold the review of police overtime and state fees spending for emergency services into the city’s routine audit because it was about to begin and was the best use of resources at the time, he told FOX19 NOW in a May 2018 interview.

Former Ohio State Auditor Dave Yost is now the State Attorney General. (Photo: Facebook)
Former Ohio State Auditor Dave Yost is now the State Attorney General. (Photo: Facebook)

In the midst of the state audit, it was revealed a box of audit records gathered by Butler had vanished within the police department.

Butler asked the current city manager, Patrick Duhaney, for an outside criminal and/or administrative investigation.

Butler and his lawyer, Brian Gillan, said Duhaney didn't respond.

In October, they amended Butler’s lawsuit again, alleging “spoliation of evidence.”

Cincinnati Police Captain Jeff Butler (Photo: Facebook)
Cincinnati Police Captain Jeff Butler (Photo: Facebook)

At last check, the box remains MIA.

Late last year, as Yost said the state audit was wrapping up, and months after police officials knew the box went missing, the police chief launched an internal investigation into the box’s disappearance.

But now, according to a memo obtained last month by FOX19 NOW, there are allegations of a conflict of interest in that probe.

Butler’s lawyer said the latest police audit’s findings validate Butler and Bailey’s conclusions in the previous audit that the system was being abused.

“We think it is telling that the most recent semi-annual audit of overtime shows the District 5 usage was cut in half this year as compared to last year. This confirms our central allegation that the senior officers in District 5 in 2017 abused the overtime system," Gillan said.

"Once we shed light on this abuse, miraculously it was cut in half. We are gratified that new guidelines on overtime, which are virtually identical to the recommendations made long ago by Lt. Col. Bailey and Capt. Butler, have curbed this overtime abuse and waste of taxpayer dollars.”

However, he added, they remain troubled over the missing audit records, the handling of the police internal investigation and outcome of the state audit.

About 80 percent of the missing files still exist electronically, but the remaining 20 percent were hand-written and impossible to recreate, Gillan has said in previous interviews.

FOX19 NOW/Jennifer Edwards Baker
FOX19 NOW/Jennifer Edwards Baker

This week he said: “We continue to be concerned that the documents required for a full and accurate audit of the 2017 overtime abuse are still missing.”

"Although we are gratified that the CPD is finally looking into those missing or destroyed records, we are troubled that the Chief chose Captain Russ Neville to conduct interviews in the case since he is the brother of (Executive Assistant Police Chief Terri) Theege, who is involved in the case. Captain Neville is not assigned to internal investigations, and there are other captains that do have internal investigations experience. So this is a troubling choice for the Chief to make if he’s truly interested in getting to the bottom of this.

“We look forward to reading the State Auditor’s overtime investigation results. We are concerned that those results have taken this long. And we are more concerned about the accuracy and thoroughness of that investigation, given that essential records were destroyed or lost by the CPD. How can you do a proper audit without all the necessary records?”

Attorney Brian Gillan (Photo: FOX19 NOW/Jennifer Edwards Baker)
Attorney Brian Gillan (Photo: FOX19 NOW/Jennifer Edwards Baker)

Yost was elected State Attorney General in November, and Keith Faber was elected State Auditor.

In December, before Yost left the auditor’s office, told us work on the audit would be complete by the end of that month and its release would be scheduled after that work was reviewed.

In early January, before administrations changed, Yost’s spokeswoman told us “the audit is not yet complete and we do not anticipate it will be until sometime around the end of the month."

A spokeswoman for the new auditor declined comment Monday.

'We realize there is significant public interest in many of the audits and investigations conducted by the Auditor of State’s office, but it is our policy not to discuss our work until it has been completed and released," wrote Allie Dumski in an email to FOX19 NOW.

State Auditor Keith Faber was sworn into office last month. (Photo: Facebook)
State Auditor Keith Faber was sworn into office last month. (Photo: Facebook)

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