By Kevin Rector, The Baltimore Sun
9:10 PM EST, November 19, 2012
A former member of the Baltimore Fire Department wrongly collected a salary and benefits from the city for more than seven years — to the tune of nearly a half-million dollars — under a military leave policy that he did not qualify for, according to a report by the city's Office of Inspector General.
The employee, who was not identified, has worked full time for the Maryland National Guard since 2004. He continued to collect his city salary and benefits under a military leave policy intended to provide financial security for city employees who are involuntarily deployed for temporary military assignments, according to Inspector General David N. McClintock's report, which was scheduled to be released publicly Tuesday.
Fire Department officials stopped making payments to the man in February and brought their concerns about his continued pay to McClintock's office in March, says the report, which was obtained by The Baltimore Sun.
A subsequent investigation determined the employee's permanent position as a medical operations officer with the National Guard — one he voluntarily accepted — did not make him eligible for continued salary and benefits from the city, but that he received both in the amount of $478,711.14, the reports says.
The man, who told the inspector general's office he works out of Fort Meade, was receiving an annual city salary of $54,358 and an annual National Guard salary of $73,627.20, the report says.
"This was not one of the many military deployments that the City has effectively managed since the Afghanistan and Iraq deployments began," the report says.
A review of other city employees on military leave found none accepting leave inappropriately, the report says.
The city's law department is taking action to recover the erroneous payments from the man, McClintock said. Ryan O'Doherty, a spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, said the mayor "made clear that abuse will not be tolerated."
The city is also recalculating what pension the former employee is due for the time he actually worked for the city, between 1988 and 2004, the report says. Had the erroneous payments under the military leave policy gone unnoticed, he could have ultimately received more than $1 million in pay, benefits and pension, the report says.
After having his pay cut off, the employee allegedly contacted city officials about getting his Fire Department job back but has since broken off communication with the city, the report says.
McClintock found the employee violated provisions of his employment with the city by providing false information on his application for military leave and failing to inform the city that he was being overpaid for the next seven years and eight months.
McClintock's report recommended the Department of Human Resources review the military leave policy and install another layer of review, as well as hold training for human resources employees in different agencies. The report also advised that the law department conduct a periodic review of the policy.
In a written response to the report, human resources director Ronnie Charles said his department immediately launched an internal review of military leave after being informed of the erroneous payments and "found many areas in need of improvement."
The department has since added an additional layer of oversight reviewing leave applications, begun new training and created a new draft policy that will streamline the administration of leave across agencies, Charles wrote. That new policy is in the final stages of review.
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