Capitol Police Suspend Three Supervisors for False Overtime Claims

A Capitol Hill police officer stands guard on Capitol Hill in Washington. A Capitol Hill police officer stands guard on Capitol Hill in Washington. Evan Vucci/AP

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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