Detroit cops' lawsuit alleges overtime scam by supervisors

George Hunter
The Detroit News
Detroit police cruiser

Detroit — Two police officers are suing the city and police department supervisors over what they call an elaborate overtime scam — the latest alleged problem involving police overtime issues.

Detroit police Sgt. William Anderson and Officer Betty Taylor claim in their Wayne County Circuit Court lawsuit that supervisors in the Gaming Division, which patrols outside the city's three casinos, engaged in "an elaborate scheme of fraud and criminality ... centered on payroll theft."

The suit names as defendants the city, Police Chief James Craig, former Assistant Chief Arnold Williams, retired Cmdr. Octaveious Miles, and Gaming Division supervisors Lt. Tonya Wilson-Golfin and Sgt. Winston Craig.

The lawsuit was brought in August, although earlier this month depositions and proofs of service were filed with the court. A case evaluation is scheduled for May, with a settlement conference set for July, according to the court.

The lawsuit claims Wilson-Golfin and Winston Craig "engaged in an elaborate scheme to obtain payment for themselves that was not due them through theft of payroll time," the lawsuit said. "The scheme involved fraudulent worktime, including claiming time for working when they were not present and overtime pay for overtime not worked."

The chief said Monday he could not comment on ongoing litigation. The city's Law Department said in a response to the lawsuit: "Defendant admits only that Plaintiff Taylor was timekeeper for the Gaming Unit. Defendant denies the remaining allegations as untrue."

The officers bringing the lawsuit claimed they told Williams about the fraud, although the city in its response said: "Williams admits he met with plaintiff Taylor in early 2018 (but) denies that plaintiff Taylor reported alleged payroll theft, but rather that plaintiff complained that officers were selected for overtime in violation of the policy and practice of utilizing the overtime roster list."

According to the lawsuit, after the two officers reported the overtime fraud, "the official timebook maintained by plaintiff Taylor for gaming operations disappeared from her office. After the official timebook disappeared from ... Taylor's office, she complained to numerous of the defendants and others regarding the timebook, which was obviously taken by or on behalf of some or all of the defendants in order to cover-up the time theft."

The city in its response said: "Plaintiff Taylor was made aware that defendant Miles had possession of the timebook ... Plaintiff Taylor received an email informing her that Captain Miles had the time book and that she acknowledged receipt of the email and asked to be notified when she could get it back."

The city's response also said: "Plaintiffs cannot show they engaged in protected activity because they knew the reports made were false," and that "plaintiff's own actions caused or contributed to their alleged injuries and/or damages."

The response did not elaborate, and law department officials declined further comment Monday.

The lawsuit further alleges that Craig canceled a meeting to discuss the allegations with the officers; and that "some or all of the defendants arranged for a frivolous ... complaint to be filed against both plaintiffs."

"Some or all of the defendants encouraged retaliatory actions against the plaintiffs and other activities to create a hostile work environment for the plaintiffs," the suit said. "After defendant Chief Craig was briefed by Captain Miles and other defendants relating to the extensive time clock theft/fraud reported by the plaintiffs, he took action to cancel his meeting with plaintiff Taylor and retaliate against her."

The police department for years has been dogged by allegations of overtime fraud. A 2014 internal affairs investigation into overtime abuse resulted in internal discipline and criminal charges.

Among those disciplined or charged for overtime abuse was a former captain, Harold Rochon, who was charged with misconduct in office in September 2017, after allegedly ordering subordinates to build a deck at his home during work hours, for which the officers were paid overtime.

A jury found Rochon guilty of common law offenses, and he was sentenced in September 2018 to 18 months' probation.

The city paid $40 million in overtime for Detroit police officers during the 2017-18 fiscal year — a 136 percent increase over the $16.9 million paid in 2012-13, and more than $10 million above the $28.3 million in overtime accrued during the 2016-17 fiscal year.

The 2019 city budget calls for an $8 million increase to the Police Department budget to $321.7 million. Detroit spent 12.7 percent of its overall police budget on overtime in 2017.

By comparison, Chicago spent about 13 percent of its police budget on overtime last year and Los Angeles spent 7.6 percent of its police budget on overtime.
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Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN