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Oversight agency calls for dismissal of APD spokesman

Albuquerque officer Simon Drobik, holding up a missing persons flyer last year, was the highest-paid city employee in 2018. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Albuquerque officer Simon Drobik, holding up a missing persons flyer last year, was the highest-paid city employee in 2018. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

The Civilian Police Oversight Agency is recommending the dismissal of the public face of the Albuquerque Police Department and his former supervisor after investigating the spokesman’s overtime pay.

Ultimately it will be up to Chief Michael Geier to decide whether officer Simon Drobik and his former supervisor will keep their jobs or whether any other disciplinary action should be taken.

With a total compensation of $192,973, Drobik was the city of Albuquerque’s highest-paid employee in 2018, and his supervisor was also one of the city’s top earners, according to the CPOA investigation.

While the report emphasizes that there was no evidence of criminal activity, it did find that throughout 2018 Drobik violated policies more than 50 times by getting paid simultaneously for being on call as a spokesman and working the “chief’s overtime” at local businesses.

In one case he left Target, where he was stationed for “chief’s overtime” – a practice in which private companies can pay the city to have an officer stationed outside their business. Officers who take part in the program are paid time and a half.

“This is in direct violation of SOP (Standard Operating Procedures),” the investigation’s recommendation memo says. “Yet Officer D. knowingly and repeatedly violated this policy to enrich himself. Despite the lack of supervision from the department, an officer’s moral code of ethics does not allow an officer to continually violate policy, especially for their own gains.”

“Lt. M,” as he is referred to in the memo, supervised Drobik until mid-October and continued to approve the overtime. Lt. M “acknowledges and was aware of Officer D’s repeated violations of APD Administrative Order 3-20-2 (6),” according to a separate memo.

“However, he took no corrective actions; instead he continued to approve the Chief’s Overtime Assignments throughout 2018 until Officer D’s TDY assignment in October of 2018,” the memo continues.

Neither officer is named, but the Journal confirmed that “officer D” is spokesman Drobik.

When reached by text late Thursday, Drobik said he had not yet seen the investigation or recommendations.

Gilbert Gallegos, another department spokesman, did not respond to questions about whether Chief Geier will follow the agency’s recommendation.

The investigation began after the ABQ Report, an online news source, began reporting on the seemingly impossible amount of hours Drobik was billing for. The Journal also wrote about the issues.

The articles caught Mayor Tim Keller’s eye, and he ordered a review of Drobik’s overtime pay, according to the report. However, the Office of the Inspector General doesn’t have jurisdiction over APD.

The CPOA was handed the case after Dan Klein, a private citizen and former APD sergeant asked an internal audit manager to conduct an audit.

Under standard operating procedures, officers are prohibited from signing up for or accepting overtime shifts if they are also on “on-call” status.

But, the CPOA investigation states, Drobik did so 51 times throughout the year when he was also signed up to be on call to field queries from the media.

The practice backfired on Aug. 23, 2018.

According to the investigation, Drobik had signed up to work the chief’s overtime assignment at Target at 4 p.m., but at 3:30 p.m. a suspect shot at officers near a Walmart on Eubank north of Central and fled the scene, sparking a lengthy SWAT standoff.

“Neighborhoods were locked down and Officer D. responded to the scene,” the investigation found. “He did not go to Target and because of the short notice, he could not find a replacement officer to work at Target in his stead. Target went without the security they had arranged for.”

The investigation also found that Drobik was claiming comp time for going for runs with the Police Academy’s recruits 28 times, for a total of 56 hours.

This violated policies because comp time is only supposed to be used if an officer “accomplishes some specific objective for the department.”

“Being compensated for an activity that accomplishes no specific objective is inefficient as it wastes public money that could be used for specific activities that do accomplish a specific objective for APD of the city,” the investigation found.

Although the investigation included many recommendations for future changes to policy regarding comp time and overtime, it did not find that Drobik had violated current policies governing those matters. It found that while it may be impossible to work for 26 hours in a day, it is possible to bill for that many hours under existing policies, as Drobik did in one instance.

At a Thursday night board meeting, the Civilian Police Oversight Agency Board unanimously agreed to sustain the agency’s findings and recommendations for the dismissal of Drobik and his former supervisor.

The board members also discussed delving deeper into policy recommendations about overtime in the future.

“I was really pleased with this investigation,” said board member Chelsea Van Deventer. “It identified so many different areas of policy to which we could make near-immediate changes and have a large impact.”

The board plans to revisit the investigation’s findings at its policy and procedures subcommittee meeting.

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