APD calls Simon Drobik a crook
The Albuquerque Police Department has basically called its former public information officer a crook.
The department, in a statement Friday to the Albuquerque Journal, said that Drobik, who was a patrol officer, was “gaming the system” for the first five months of this year and getting paid for work he didn't do. That, the department said, amounted to potential criminal fraud.
Drobik has for years been bringing in massive amounts of overtime pay. In 2018, ABQReport wrote that Drobik, whom we dubbed the “Human Robot,” sometimes billed the department, and the taxpayers, for more than 24 hours of work in a day. In 2019, the Civilian Police Oversight Agency found that Drobik had been billing the city for overtime when he was on call as the department's PIO and while he was working Chief's Overtime. That was a violation of APD policy and the CPOA recommended that Drobik be fired. But then-APD Chief Mike Geier refused to fire, or to even discipline, Drobik.
Drobik's attorney, Sam Bregman, told the Journal that the department's allegations against his client were “absolutely false.”
“Officer Drobik never, ever cheated on a time card. He worked overtime due to being ordered to do so by a deputy chief, and every bit of his time was approved by a deputy chief,” Bregman said. “APD is now trying to throw him under the bus.”
Bregman added: “If this goes any further, we plan on fighting it in a courtroom. And we believe this is actually just a cover-up on the part of this administration for their structural inaccuracies in the police department.”
APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos's statement to the Journal summarized the results of an Internal Affairs investigation into Drobik's overtime claims this year. They were, Gallegos said:
– Not reporting to duty on time– Not notifying supervisor when leaving post
– 92 time sheet violations
– 38 instances of being on-call while working Chief’s Overtime
– 26 violations of reporting hours worked on chief’s overtime
– three instances of leaving prior to end of shift
– 54 instances of negotiating to not take calls for service
Drobik, who retired in July, was routinely among the highest earners in the city and ranked No. 1 among all city employees in 2018 by making $192,973. When he retired in July 2020 he had already collected $106,607 for the year – despite his base pay rate being $31.50 per hour.
The State Auditor and the state Attorney General's office have opened investigations into APD's overtime practices.
Gallegos's statement to the Journal quoted Interim APD Chief Harold Medina as saying, “We’re cleaning up the mess that was left behind and making real changes so that these kinds of wrongdoing don’t happen.”
But Medina, who returned to APD in 2017, appears to have been part of the mess he now wants to clean up.
“Medina has been deputy chief of police since December 2017; he had to know what was going on with Drobik,” said ABQReport columnist and retired APD SGT. Dan Klein. “He was there for both investigations. So why didn’t Medina address it before now? He was second in command at APD, it was his responsibility to act, yet Medina will have everyone believe that he knew nothing until now? Medina is either lying or he's a fool. But he is now chief. God help us.”
The IA investigation covers Drobik's overtime claims only from this year. But in 2018, Drobik said that he was a consultant and an actor for the movie El Camino, which started filming in New Mexico (Albuquerque) in November 2018. The filming lasted nearly 50 days. The movie was released in October 2019.
Klein wants to know if any of the investigations are looking at whether Drobik was paid as an APD officer while working on the film.
“Did APD’s investigation into Drobik ask the question? Did he commit any violations while working for Vince Gilligan on the movie El Camino?” Klein said. “Did Drobik receive pay from city taxpayers for on-duty work, while consulting and appearing in the movie El Camino?”
Gallegos's statement also said that one of Drobik's supervisors at APD, Deputy Chief of Staff Elizabeth Armijo, will be disciplined in connection with Drobik's actions this year. He did not say what the discipline will be.