ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The state auditor says the Albuquerque Police Department ignored years worth of recommendations to help prevent abuse of overtime. The mayor’s office and APD claim they’re now fixing the problems they say continued under the last police chief, who was brought in by the mayor when he took office.
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The special audit, released by State Auditor Brian Colon, is the seventh report looking into APD overtime policies and practices in seven years. Colon stated there should’ve been a lot more oversight.
“What we know in this case is that time and time again, leadership at APD clearly ignored the findings that were presented,” Colon said. “These are the kind of findings that lead to continued waste and abuse and ultimately fraud.”
Colon said the previous reports dating back to 2014 had detailed findings and recommendations that were never implemented by then-Mayor Richard Berry or his police chief Gorden Eden, and the problems continued into the Keller administration.
One example was that APD should keep an eye out for irregular activity for the officers who are consistently getting overtime.
This latest special audit reviewed APD overtime practices between January 2018 and July 2020. It states APD’s previous overtime limit of 25 hours a week was seemingly ignored. The report adds there was also a lack of internal controls when it came to the chief’s overtime and paid leave.
This special audit specifically names now-former and police spokesman, Ofc. Simon Drobik. Last year, KRQE News 13 reported when an internal investigation found Drobik was committing rampant fraud.
In response to the state auditor’s findings, the mayor’s office in an emailed statement is blaming Tim Keller’s former police chief Mike Geier.
“It shouldn’t have taken multiple audits to fix APD’s overtime system. The problems and the solutions have been obvious for years. Under Chief Medina’s new leadership, he took quick action to implement those solutions and ensure there is an ongoing review of overtime so employees are held accountable,” APD spokesperson Gilbert Gallegos said.
On Friday, current Chief Harold Medina said changes are already happening to create more oversight.
“We just notified commanders of their top 20 overtime earners for the department and we’re going to ask commanders to make sure that the surface and everything looks good and that there’s no issues, and in the near future we’re going to add an audit to that,” Medina stated.
Gallegos said there will be a review of the top 20 overtime earners every quarter.
“There is no room for favoritism when it comes to protecting public funds,” Gallegos added.
APD claims they started instituting policy changes last October. Now, the 25-hour-a-week overtime cap is only waived when there are issues because of short-staffing.
“The former chief knowingly covered up overtime abuses and helped his favored employees game the system to enrich themselves,” a spokesperson with the mayor’s office said in an emailed statement. “The report makes it clear that the ‘tone at the top’ of APD was a major driver of the abuse and the failure to make needed changes. We didn’t hesitate to take bold action to remove the top cop and get the department back on track.”
Former APD Chief Mike Geier released the following statement through his attorney late Friday night:
“I’ve reviewed the report by Porch & Associates as released today concerning the review of APD’s overtime practices. While I find the report to be thorough, fair, and objective, there are some points of the record that require correction. Additionally, of immediate concern is the City of Albuquerque’s response concerning me as asserted on pages 47-48 and in their public statements this evening. To allege that I was inattentive or failed to take action regarding these issues is utterly false and not supported by the record of my actions which show, frankly, the Mayor’s interference with my efforts.
Following my review of the January 18, 2019, Albuquerque Police Department Overtime Evaluation report by the City, I prepared a summary regarding the recommendations and started a plan to address the issues raised in that report. This summary and plan are attached to this email. This plan, which was to be accomplished over 2019 and 2020 was presented and addressed to Mayor Keller’s executive team, including CAO Sarita Nair. Outlines of these presentations are attached. Further, this plan was promoted by my office in a April 27, 2019, media press release which is also attached. I even drafted a special order in 2019 but approval of that special order was withheld by the Mayor’s office. Finally, in August of 2019, I directed DCOP Smathers to summarize the proposed changes to APD’s OT system in a memo to CAO Nair. Also attached is a draft of DCOP Smathers’ memo, which includes my comments/edits under each paragraph, before the final copy was sent to CAO Nair. Finally, in May of 2020, I initiated an APD IA investigation into the allegations concerning various APD personnel involved in approving Ofc. Drobik’s overtime earnings and from that investigation over eight persons were found to sustained findings of SOP violations.
If anybody was proactive in taking action to address the public’s concerns about APD overtime expenses, it was me and certainly not the Mayor or CAO Nair as the Porch Report shows.”