OT audit reveals epic failure at APD/city
By Dennis Domrzalski and Dan Klein
-- Findings and recommendations of six previous audits, dating back to 2014, have been ignored. "There is a pattern in the reports. Almost all of the reports have the same findings, and the findings have not been resolved."
-- There has been inadequate oversight by both the city and APD.
-- Keller blames it all on Geier.
The New Mexico State Auditor's long-awaited report on overtime abuse at the Albuquerque Police Department is out, and rather than being called an audit or a report, it should be entitled, “The Epic Failure of Anyone at APD or the City to do Anything to Fix a Long-and-Thoroughly-Documented Problem.”
The audit, released Friday by Auditor Brian Colön's office, says that since 2014 there have been six audits (Colön's is the seventh) or reports on APD's overtime pay fiasco. (Read the full audit here.) Those prior reports resulted in 17 findings, or problems, with the overtime process and recommendations on how to fix them. But it appears that no one at the city or APD ever implemented those recommended fixes. Why? Apparently because they didn't know about them. Here's the quote from Colön's audit:
"Six prior audits or investigations had been performed regarding APD overtime. Five of
those reports have been reviewed as part of this report. This report is the seventh regarding
APD overtime since the first report in May of 2014. Each of the reports had detailed
findings and recommendations that were not implemented.
"The 2014 and 2017 reports had all of the findings and recommendations necessary to fix
and prevent the issues reported on in the 2018, 2019, and 2020 reports. The findings were
clear, as were the recommendations. However, the recommendations were not
"During our interviews with City and APD staff a common theme was that they were not
aware of the prior audits. A quote from the Civilian Police Oversight Agency Investigative
Report: Investigation CPC# 275-18 dated April 1, 2018 report is “The current APD and
City administration were not made aware of the 2016 audit or corrective action.”
"During discussions with the Mayor’s staff, the City Internal Auditor, and APD staff we
found that the City did not have a procedure to ensure all open audit reports and unresolved
findings were accumulated and worked on until resolved. This was not just an APD
problem, but a City-wide problem.
"There has been inadequate oversight by both the City and APD. The systemic cause is that
the City did not have a procedure to ensure all open audit reports and unresolved findings
were accumulated and worked on until resolved. The City’s Internal Audit Department
has started to develop a report that includes all open audits and unresolved findings, but
this was not in place during the period covered by this report.
"There is a pattern in the reports. Almost all of the reports have the same findings, and the
findings have not been resolved."
In a news release, Colon said there was inadequate oversight at the city.
“Continued failure to provide oversight, monitoring and accountability has resulted in abuse and contributed to the public’s mistrust," Colon said. "This special audit is one of at least seven reports on concerning practices at APD that must be corrected. Residents of Albuquerque deserve better and it’s long overdue,” said Auditor Colón. “The City and APD must not waste any time in implementing the identified opportunities for improvement.”
The special audit was designated after the OSA received allegations that the City and APD failed to take action following calls from the Civilian Police Oversight Agency to address concerns regarding APD’s failure to follow its own overtime policies.
“The results of the special audit highlight a pattern of inadequate oversight from the City and APD to address years’ worth of findings and recommendations, which is necessary to fix and prevent the issues reported," Colon added.
The problems at APD are numerous and long-standing. They include things like:
– Failure of APD supervisors to properly monitor and pre-approve officer overtime.
– A system where officers who are on vacation or paid time off can use those hours as the basis for claiming overtime. That, the report said is a violation of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.
– Changing and conflicting overtime policies that are not officially updated by new SOPs. Many officers and their supervisors are confused as to what the policy actually is, and thus they develop their own interpretations.
– Situations where officers are allowed to work Chief's Overtime while they are on on-call status. That's a violation of APD rules, but it has been allowed to happen.
– Situations where officers are allowed to cancel their regular shifts in order to work Chief's Overtime.
– An automatic, two-hour overtime award for officers who have to appear in court for DWI and traffic ticket violations they write. Even though the court appearance might take only 15 minutes, the officer still gets two hours of overtime. The system encourages officers to settle cases quickly so they can settle cases quickly, go home and still collect two hours of overtime.
– APD doesn't monitor officer overtime for irregular activity.
– APD doesn't, but should Reconcile Overtime Transactions Between its Timekeeping and Payroll Systems.
Friday's report, which was done by the Albuquerque accounting firm Porch & Associates LLC, also mentioned the 2018 investigation by the Civilian Police Oversight Agency into alleged overtime abuses by former officer Simon Drobik. The CPOA report recommended that Drobik be fired for violating APD policy, including working Chief's Overtime while he was on on-call status. But then-APD Chief Mike Geier refused to even discipline Drobik, saying that the department's overtime rules were confusing. Apparently, the confusion still exists.
The current audit has five findings, or problems, that need to be fixed in addition to all of the previous findings:
– Failure to track open audit findings and open past audit reports.
– Lack of overtime policies and procedures. Several Department policies, including Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) 3-20 Overtime, Compensatory Time, and Work Shift Designation, have not been
reviewed or updated since March 10, 2016.
– Lack of internal controls for Chief's Overtime. During the OSA’s review of the Department’s policies, we noted several deficiencies related to the Chief’s Overtime policy. The Department’s policy does not list or define the eligibility requirements for officers working Chief’s Overtime. Although supervisory approval is required for other types of overtime, it is not required for Chief’s Overtime.
– Lack of internal controls for leave requests. During the OSA’s review of leave requests for one officer, we noted there is no record of leave request forms for this officer. Additionally, based on interviews and review of policy, there is no clear indication or definition of the Department’s minimum staffing level.
– Improper tine reporting. The Department does not have a policy or procedure in place that prevents and detects overlapping or incorrect reported time.
In its response to the audit's findings, Mayor Tim Keller's administration tried to blame the problems on former chief Mike Geier. Here's what they said:
“The City agrees that the tone at the top was inadequate in the prior APD
administrations. In contrast, the current city administration actively directed the former
APD Chief, Michael Geier, to address overtime issues, overtime policies and the widely
reported overtime questions concerning specific personnel. As outlined on page 12 of
the report and in reference to the CPOA 2018 Report, it is very clear that Mayor Keller
ordered a review of Officer Simon Drobik’s overtime pay. As a result of various
factors, including but not limited to, the result of CPOA review as well as the APD
Internal Affairs Report I-373-20 (referred to on page 4), a change in leadership at APD
was made. The leadership change reflects an active and adequate tone at the top.”
But the audit said that bad management throughout the entire city has led to the problems at APD.
“Management sets the tone for ethical behavior and creates an environment
that reinforces and encourages ethical behavior,” the audit said. “Nothing in management's responses to the CPOA 2018 report encourages ethical behavior. Not correcting the findings from prior
reports does not create an environment that reinforces and encourages ethical behavior.
The tone at the top was inadequate in the prior APD administrations.”