It's been called a betrayal of the badge. After working for the Vermont State Police for 22 years, Sgt. James Deeghan resigned after being accused of lying on his time sheets. His overtime upped his salary by $56,000 a year.
"What I find so disturbing is this is stealing from taxpayers if it's true," said Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont.
Deeghan's incorrect time sheet was reported by another state trooper, leading the governor to call for an audit of State Police.
"Deeghan's salary was unusually high. He reported roughly $123,000 in earnings last year," Shumlin said.
But Shumlin says a lot of overtime and a high salary is not necessarily a red flag. In fact, many state workers more than doubled their salaries with overtime pay. For example, a nursing assistant at the veterans' home has a base salary of $29,000, but in 2010 she worked 2,040 hours of overtime and ended up nearly tripling her salary to $76,000. A corrections officer had a base salary of $54,000; he worked 1,726 hours of overtime and more than doubled his salary to $125,000 a year. An emergency dispatcher with State Police originally making $59,000 a year worked 1,130 hours of overtime and ended up making $106,000 a year. These are just three examples of hundreds within state government.
"We are under the impression that it's mostly legitimate and what we have here is a situation where one individual took advantage of the taxpayers of the state," Vt. Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding said.
In 2010, Vt. Auditor Tom Salmon noticed a pattern of abuse within Vermont State Police employees increasing their overtime hours before retirement to boost their pensions. This is known as spiking. Salmon's report stated "spiking of pre-retirement wages has been a concern for many, including the state's recent Retirement commission." Then-Public Safety commissioner Tom Tremblay responded, "this is an example where we can do much better and we will." And they did. A law passed last year took effect 10 days ago. It prevents troopers from spiking their salaries by more than 20 percent of their average pay during their time of service. But for those who've already spiked their salary and retired-- nothing can be done.
"There are constitutional issues with taking something that already belongs to them, so we did not go backward nor did we think we had the right under the constitution," Spaulding said.
Spaulding says they don't anticipate these high instances of overtime are fraudulent, but it could indicate the state's need to hire more workers-- something he says corrections is starting to do to reduce the number of overtime hours. Spaulding says he thinks Deeghan was the only trooper doctoring his time card. An independent audit will try to determine if that is in fact the case.
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