He's a 22-year veteran of the Vermont State Police. Now Jim Deeghan, 49, a former sergeant out of the Williston barracks, finds himself on the wrong side of the law.
"I'm sorry to report to Vermonters today that we have a situation unfolding with a former sergeant of the State police where we fear that there may have been fraudulent activity that stole taxpayers' money," said Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont.
Authorities say another trooper discovered that Deeghan was doctoring his timecard when he was trying to get authorization for his own overtime. That officer immediately reported the suspected abuse to his superiors. Monday evening Deeghan was suspended without pay and he resigned early Tuesday morning. Deeghan will not be represented by the union.
"This administration will not tolerate taxpayers being robbed from in any way, shape or form. We've promised you transparency. We will give you transparency throughout this investigation," Shumlin said.
The governor has ordered a forensic audit of Deeghan's pay. Last year, Deeghan collected $136,000. With a base salary of $80,000, that puts his earned overtime at nearly double what's expected. No one's sure exactly how long it has been going on or how many hours he may have been paid for without actually working. Deeghan could face criminal charges.
"We're going to be the fact finders. We're going to report the facts as we find them to be. We're going to discover those facts and give them to the state's attorney. His office could then make the charging decision," Vt. Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn said.
Until then, the alleged fraud of one casts a negative shadow on the entire force.
"Betrayal and trust. This is a case of a public servant that was entrusted with a job to do and he betrayed his badge, his core values and across the state this will have a shockwave among State Police members who will have a long-lasting effect," Vt. State Police Col. Tom L'Esperance said.
The pay of nearly 400 members of the Vermont State Police will now be closely scrutinized. An audit will determine if further reforms need to be made to the current time card system. At this point, authorities are not sure if this abuse is isolated to one sergeant or it's a sign of a more widespread pattern.
As the system is now, there are checks and balances in place. A second set of eyes does have to sign off on all overtime. So obviously authorities are now using this investigation to check out who approved Deeghan's hours.
They hope that this audit will reveal if even more oversight is needed. State police are also investing a new IT system that would make this type of fraud harder to get away with.
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