It has been a week since Durham’s City Manager Tom Bonfield released an audit report that showed an embarrassing lack of oversight at the Durham Police Department that allowed one police officer to take home more than $62,000 in overtime in one year.
This chart shows what else that money could have funded, including officers, police dogs and weapons. During city budget hearings last spring, DPD Chief Jose Lopez approached City Council bemoaning the lack of pay for his officers.
Meanwhile, the State Bureau of Investigation is looking into the matter and will consider whether criminal charges could be brought against Officer Alesha Robinson-Taylor, who filed for the overtime, or anyone else who might have been involved.
Robinson-Taylor, 39, worked in an administrative position tracking the off-duty employment of other Durham officers and also handled ABC permits and issues related to towing in the city. The audit found that even after being notified of excessive hours, Deputy Chief Beverly “B.J.” Council, a 31-year veteran of the Durham Police Department, approved most of the overtime for Robinson-Taylor.
To work the 1,837 hours she claimed in overtime, Robinson-Taylor would have had to average a 16-hour workday for most of the past year. One month, she even took home more than $8,000 in extra pay. She also claimed 904 hours in compensatory time, which is awarded as time off. City officials said they are looking into recouping the money she was paid.
The $62,513 in cash pay Robinson-Taylor received was in addition to her salary, which topped $52,000 after she received a small raise in July. The overtime payments alone represent more than half the $106,000 the department has spent from its main fund on overtime so far this year.
Even more damning, the audit showed that even after Chief Lopez found out about the overtime in April, he didn’t stop Robinson-Taylor from earning overtime, but instead formed a committee to look into the issue, the audit said. Robinson-Taylor took home more than $24,000 while the chief knew about the issue.
Lopez has promised immediate corrective action. Bonfield backed the chief, saying Lopez would not still be leading the department if he didn’t have the city manager’s full confidence. Several City Council members and the mayor also said they supported Bonfield’s decisions, as he oversees the police department.
The city cannot release Robinson-Taylor’s employment status due to privacy laws. At the time of the audit, she had been an officer for 12 years, driving a patrol car and working as a detective.
Council submitted her retirement papers with the release of the audit. She is on personal leave until her retirement kicks in at the end of December. Council, 52, spent her career climbing the ranks of the department, starting in street patrol. She has worked as an investigator, has managed an entire police district and finished her career overseeing operations. She is eligible for full retirement benefits, which includes city group health insurance for the next 13 years.