Northampton Mayor Narkewicz responds to council on police payroll probe (with document)

Last modified: Thursday, January 30, 2014
NORTHAMPTON — Northampton Mayor David J. Narkewicz Thursday provided city councilors with answers to 20 questions they asked in connection with payroll improprieties discovered at the Northampton Police Department last fall.

The 44-page response comes more than a month after the council submitted a wide-ranging information request to Narkewicz. Most of the response is an auditor’s payroll review of former Police Department administrative assistant Maryann Keating’s working hours and her supervisor, former police Capt. Scott Savino.

Several of the mayor’s responses detail the city’s flex time policies and procedures and how compensation is approved in the Police Department. Narkewicz stated that the case involving Keating and Savino was “an isolated incident,” though the city has and continues to review the department’s protocols for payroll record-keeping “to ensure their accuracy and integrity.”

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The panel’s 20 questions, drafted by At-Large City Councilor Jesse Adams, ranged from wanting to know the police chief’s birth date to whether the Police Department plans to restructure.

Narkewicz stated that a new captain will be assigned to Police Department operations in March 2014 and that there are no plans to restructure the department.

“The current NPD organizational structure is operationally sound and matches contemporary models for similar-sized accredited police agencies,” Narkewicz wrote.

Adams said he appreciates the mayor’s response and finds the information Narkewicz provided helpful. Adams said he is not satisfied with the city’s response to what happened in the Police Department, however.

“My sense is that the administration doesn’t feel the need for additional oversight of the department,” Adams said. “I think there’s still a need for additional oversight and scrutiny in that department, but that’s part of the executive branch.”

Adams said it is difficult for him to understand how Keating was paid for so much unworked time without various supervisors in the department noticing.

The mayor’s information shed little new light on the investigation of Keating and Savino, who were the subjects of a probe conducted by Hampden District Attorney Mark Mastroianni after alleged improprieties involving Keating’s time cards surfaced in September 2013.

Mastroianni’s investigation found that Keating had been paid about $18,000 for hours she did not work dating back to 2011 and that Savino was aware of that and “knowingly” verified a “small portion of the unworked hours.”

Savino retired Dec. 13 and Keating resigned Dec. 11 after both had been put on paid leave Sept. 20. No criminal charges were brought. Under an agreement with the city, Savino is eligible to receive his pension and $29,000 in accumulated sick leave pay. He forfeited $8,300 in vacation time.

The mayor, in his written response this week to the council, notes that Savino received two pro-rated educational incentive allowance installments totalling $7,754 on Dec. 19 and Jan. 2 under a collective bargaining agreement, a benefit formerly known as the Quinn Bill.

Keating was required to pay the city $30,000 in restitution under a separate agreement.

The mayor was in Boston at a Massachusetts Municipal Association conference Friday and not available for comment.

City Council President William H. Dwight said he reviewed the mayor’s responses and was not surprised by any of the information.

“Some of the questions were redundant and some were somewhat loaded,” Dwight said Friday. “The answers were pretty much what I expected they would be and appropriate.”

One question posed by the council asked whether there is “a plan” to restore credibility in the Northampton Police Department, to which the mayor took exception.

“I reject the premise of this question,” Narkewicz wrote. “The NPD responds professionally and ethically to hundreds of calls weekly with no question as to credibility, did so throughout the entire investigation, and continues to do so.”

Narkewicz pointed out that the payroll case involved two of 65 Police Department employees.

“It is inappropriate to impugn the integrity and credibility of all of NPD’s dedicated, hardworking professionals because of the isolated conduct of two now-former employees,” he wrote.

On the question of why Savino and Keating were not ordered to jointly pay restitution, the mayor said he was limited in his ability to respond for “evaluative and disciplinary personnel” reasons that are not public. However, he wrote that Savino, unlike Keating, had significant rights under the Civil Service Law, which was a factor.

“The Civil Service process, had it been invoked, would have required significant expenditures to defend the claim with a very uncertain outcome, including the real possibility that Mr. Savino would have been reinstated and the city required to compensate him for any back pay withheld,” the mayor wrote. “The negotiated administrative resolutions required a cost-benefit analysis in which all parties compromised their rights and liabilities.”

Dwight said he was satisfied with that response and that councilors should have an opportunity to raise any further questions they may have for the mayor when the council meets Feb. 6.

“I think the mayor has to walk a fine line here,” Dwight said. “He’s an employer and an administrator dealing with employees who have not been charged with a crime.”

The investigation cost the city $7,171, of which $2,421 was taken from the Police Department budget for overtime related to internal investigations and $4,750 from the auditor’s budget for independent review and analysis of payroll records, according to the mayor.

Dan Crowley can be reached at dcrowley@gazettenet.com.

Mayor Info Request Memo 1-23-14