Authorities say two high-ranking Harvey police officers have been reassigned amid a Tribune investigation that found records showing them working for two communities during the same hours and getting paid by both.
The veteran officers each held full-time positions with the south suburban department while working security details that paid $19 to $25 an hour for two school districts, according to public records obtained by the newspaper.
The Tribune review found scores of unexplained inconsistencies in which the officers were reported on duty in Harvey during the same hours they were also getting paid to watch over school halls and sporting events miles away.
The records raise questions about why their bosses took so long to investigate. Harvey officials were tipped off to possible payroll discrepancies in 2011, yet they waited to take key steps to investigate the allegations until after the Tribune requested copies of time cards this summer.
The time cards for one of the officers, Cmdr. Roy Wells, 52, suggest he may have overlapped at least 200 hours since 2008, the equivalent of five full-time weeks of work. For example, on one day, he was paid for working 22 hours for the three agencies during one 24-hour period, the time cards show.
The other officer — Steven Porter, 52 — was Harvey's senior police investigator in internal affairs, a role that made him one of the agency's top ethics watchdogs. His time cards showed overlap of at least 120 hours since 2008, the equivalent of three full-time weeks.
Wells and Porter told the Tribune they were honest about their hours and suspect some of their time cards have mistaken entries.
Wells was paid $75,000 a year by Harvey and collected as much as $28,000 a year from the districts. He said there was "a very good explanation" for the discrepancies and that he expects to be vindicated.
Porter was paid $67,000 a year by Harvey and collected as much as $12,000 a year from the districts. Porter said he "acted appropriately" at all times.
"Look, I don't cheat on my job," Porter said. "I'm 28 years on the job. No way I'm going to throw away my career."
Harvey police said they've contacted the Cook County State's Attorney's office about the suspected payroll irregularities. Prosecutors declined to comment.
Three places at once?
The Tribune obtained pay and timekeeping records for Wells and Porter from Harvey police, Rich Township High School District 227 and Homewood-Flossmoor High School District 233 through the open records act.
To allow for the possibility of small differences between the various employers' time clocks, the newspaper's review focused on dates in which someone clocked into a second job at least a half-hour before he clocked out of the first.
The analysis of the time cards from 2008 through May found that:
•For Wells, there were at least 92 days when he was listed as working in two places at once. The average overlap was more than two hours each day. And there was an overlap in nearly one-third of all days he worked at a school.
On one day in early 2009, Wells' time cards suggest he was in three places at one time. Records show he worked from 8:25 a.m. to 6:39 p.m. in Harvey, but started shifts at both high schools at 4:30 p.m.
The time cards said he worked until 6:30 p.m. at Rich Township, and until 10 p.m. at Homewood-Flossmoor.
•For Porter, there were at least 101 days when time cards indicated he was in two places at once, with an average overlap of more than an hour. And there was an overlap in more than one-third of all days he worked at a school.
On a Tuesday in March 2010, time cards indicated he worked a full day at Harvey, clocking out at 5 p.m., but not before he started a 4 p.m. shift at Homewood-Flossmoor. That shift is shown lasting until 10 p.m., but he also started another shift at Rich Township at 6 p.m., which also lasted until 10 p.m., according to records.
Wells was asked about some discrepancies last year as part of a civil case. He said he sometimes worked in a Rich Township school for a few hours in the morning and then for a few hours later that same day.
Wells said Rich Township's computer system required that he submit his hours as if he worked them all in a row. That could explain, he said, why his time cards would suggest a discrepancy when there wasn't one.
Wells said the school told him to log his hours that way, but also to keep his own private record of the actual times and dates he worked.
Rich Township did not respond to requests to address Wells' explanation.
In any event, his testimony didn't explain repeated shift overlaps between the other school district and Harvey.
Harvey police use a hand scanner to record in and out times, while at Homewood-Flossmoor the time cards were written out by hand. School district spokeswoman Jodi Bryant said employees are expected to accurately fill out their cards, including all start and stop times.
"In light of all the information the Tribune provided, the matter is under review," she said.
Wells declined to answer questions when contacted by the newspaper.
Porter said he has "no idea" why there would be time card discrepancies.
"I get off at one job and go to the other one. It takes me 10 minutes to go from Harvey police headquarters to Homewood-Flossmoor," he said, before declining further comment.
For its part, Harvey issued a statement saying it has "zero tolerance for police corruption or misconduct by any of its employees."
But a Tribune review of court records raises questions about why the department waited until this spring to start investigating the matter.
Slow to act
The time card allegations became intertwined with an expansive wrongful termination lawsuit filed by a fired Harvey officer, Andre Sneed.
Harvey said it dismissed Sneed for faking an injury. He also had been mentioned, but not charged, in a federal corruption case targeting officers providing security for drug dealers.
Sneed's lawsuit alleged department brass lied in ways that unfairly implicated officers in the drug case, and Sneed said he was fired for complaining about that and other alleged misconduct.
Tucked into Sneed's 2011 legal filings was a complaint that the suburb ignored his allegation of payroll fraud among top brass. He also complained that the suburb refused to give him payroll records as required by the state's open records law so he could investigate.
Nearly two years later, Sneed introduced records — in front of the suburb's lawyer — that allegedly showed the payroll discrepancies at two different school districts. But Harvey police did not open an internal investigation then either.
In March, Sneed forced acting Chief Denard Eaves to answer questions under oath regarding what he knew about alleged ghost payrolling.
Eaves said he had "no knowledge" of the allegations.
Eaves' spokeswoman, Sandra Alvarado, wouldn't discuss how her boss could not have known of the payroll allegations sooner.
In April, Sneed said, the suburb granted his long-standing request for department pay records. That made it possible to compare shift overlaps for all three agencies.
Around the same time, Alvarado said, the department contacted prosecutors and launched an internal probe. But the Tribune found the department waited until July — a day after the Tribune began asking questions — to gather most of the pay records from the two school districts.
On July 5, according to Harvey police, both Wells and Porter were reassigned. Wells was put on "administrative leave" and retired July 11.
As for Porter, his status is unclear. Alvarado said he was put on "administrative desk duty" outside of the internal affairs office.
But Porter last week told the Tribune he had not been disciplined or reassigned and remained an internal affairs investigator.
Tribune reporter Joseph Ryan contributed.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun