.......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... ..........
Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
The Albuquerque Police Department’s chain of command is reviewing a civilian oversight investigation report that recommended firing a department spokesman and his former supervisor for violating overtime policy more than 50 times.
Meanwhile, Shaun Willoughby, president of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association, said he believes spokesman Simon Drobik deserves every dollar he earned. He said he was saddened that the CPOA investigated this case and came up with those conclusions.
“I don’t know a harder-working police officer than Simon Drobik,” Willoughby said. “Every single time we are given information about some atrocity inside of Albuquerque, Simon is the face that you see. He’s doing a job nobody else in the department wants to do.”
Ultimately, APD Chief Michael Geier will make the final determination about whether Drobik and his former supervisor will be dismissed, said Gilbert Gallegos, another APD spokesman.
A spokeswoman for Mayor Tim Keller said the mayor cannot be involved in personnel decisions for classified employees like Drobik.
Gallegos did not say whether Drobik or his former supervisor, “Lt. M,” have been placed on administrative leave. Neither man was named in an investigation report by the Civilian Police Oversight Agency, but the Journal has confirmed “Officer D.” is Drobik.
Drobik made a total of $192,973 in 2018, making him the city of Albuquerque’s highest-paid employee. His supervisor was also one of the city’s top earners, according to the CPOA investigation.
A little less than 20% of the additional pay was earned through a program called Chief’s Overtime, where private companies pay the city to station police officers at their businesses. The officer then gets paid time and a half – in Drobik’s case $78.75 an hour. And another quarter was billed as hours worked as a public information officer.
The CPOA investigation found that there were 51 weeks when Drobik submitted and was paid for being “on-call status” and throughout that time he also worked 207 Chief’s Overtime assignments. The investigation states Drobik “knowingly and repeatedly violated this policy to enrich himself.”
The investigation also faulted Drobik’s former supervisor for signing off on the overtime assignments. Lt. M was Drobik’s supervisor until October 2018.
When reached Thursday night, Drobik said he had not seen the report. He did not respond to additional requests for comment Friday.
Many received lots of OT
Last year, Chief Geier lifted caps on the amount of overtime officers could work each month.
Gallegos said this was due to low staffing throughout the department.
“Chief Geier replaced the cap starting January 2019 as staffing has increased in recent months,” Gallegos wrote in an email.
And while the CPOA investigation focused on Drobik, it noted that he was just one of several officers who were receiving high amounts of overtime.
“In reviewing Chief’s Overtime slips, the names of many of the top earners in APD were on those same Chief’s Overtime assignments that Officer D. was,” the investigation found.
The investigation recommends that APD begin monitoring its officers overtime for irregular activity and to verify why certain officers are routinely working so much overtime “their compensation exceeds that of many executives in City Government.”
According to the CPOA investigation report, last fall Mayor Keller saw several articles about Drobik’s overtime pay in the ABQ Report – an online news source – and the Journal and asked for a review.
Jessie Damazyn, the mayor’s spokeswoman, said Keller had ordered the review of APD’s overtime pay, including that of the highest overtime earners. “While the department has been shorthanded over the past years and relied on overtime, we wanted to make more efficient use of public safety funds,” Damazyn said.
The review was initially assigned to the Office of the Inspector General, but the IG doesn’t have jurisdiction over APD. And although the Office of the Inspector General asked the CPOA to conduct the review, it could not open one at that time without a civilian complaint.
Then, on Oct. 29, Dan Klein, working as a journalist for the ABQ Report, emailed the internal audit manager asking if he was going to open an audit into Drobik “earning an amount of money that appears to be humanly and mathematically impossible,” according to the investigation report.
Lawrence Davis, the internal audit manager, said he took Klein’s question as a complaint and passed it back to the Office of the Inspector General, which focuses on fraud, waste and abuse.
“I’ll accept any information or any complaint or any issue and if supporting documentation is provided I will pass it along,” Davis told the Journal.
Inspector General Ken Bramlett was not in charge when the complaint came in, but he said by ordinance the office turns over matters regarding police to APD’s internal affairs department or the CPOA.
“If anybody gives information to the Office of the Inspector General that would constitute a violation of policy or law, then we’re required to act on it,” Bramlett told the Journal.
Klein, for his part, said he had not even realized his request was being treated as a complaint until he saw the story in the Journal on Friday morning.
“In my capacity working for ABQ Report I called the OIG to say have you been reading what Dennis (Domrzalski of the ABQ Report) is writing and what is the city going to do about it,” Klein said. “From that question from the reporter they decided to make that a formal complaint.”