Police OT under scrutiny in Holyoke 

  • A Holyoke police supervisor responds to a call on Sargeant Street on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Holyoke police respond on April 28 to a call in the 100 block of Suffolk Street. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Holyoke Police station on Appleton Street, photographed on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Holyoke Police cars parked at the William S. Taupier Municipal Parking Garage on Division Street on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Holyoke Police cars parked at the William S. Taupier Municipal Parking Garage on Division Street on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • A Holyoke police officer parks at the train station on Main Street, April 28. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Holyoke Ward 2 City Councilor and acting Mayor Terence Murphy. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 5/12/2021 5:29:16 PM

HOLYOKE — Speaking at a virtual City Council meeting on March 2, Police Chief Manny Febo was upset. He accused councilors of “insulting” and “ridiculous” micromanagement.

“It’s like you want to manage the police department,” Febo said. “I don’t think anyone here is qualified to manage the police department, but you’re qualified to criticize, which regularly happens, and I’m a little frustrated. And I apologize if I seem that way but I’m kind of fed up … It’s kind of crazy.”

Febo was reacting to councilors’ decision to send to committee his request for $200,000 to be transferred from accounts for patrol officer pay and other costs to his department’s overtime account.

Overtime pay in the police department has spiraled upward over the past decade, according to a Gazette review of city payroll records from the 2011 through 2020 calendar years. City-paid overtime costs have increased from $587,257 in 2011 to $1.4 million in 2019 and $1.3 million in 2020. Grant-funded overtime pay also has risen over the past decade, going from $94,267 in 2011 to $335,629 in 2020.

The police department’s administrators and supervisors have earned the largest share of the overtime. Last year, police officers — all but one of whom are supervisors — made up 17 out of the top 20 highest-paid city employees in Holyoke, including those employed by the city’s schools. Of those 17 officers, eight earned more than $200,000 in gross pay.

Of the department’s top 10 earners of city-paid overtime in 2020, nine were supervisors. The one patrol officer in the top 10 is Holyoke Patrolmen’s Union President Manuel Rivera.

Top city-paid overtime earners were: Lt. James Albert, who made $85,847 in overtime pay in 2020; Capt. David Pratt, the incoming police chief, with $67,371; Lt. John Monaghan with $54,755; Capt. Matthew Moriarty with $51,545; Lt. Laurence Cournoyer with $45,833; Sgt. John Hart, now a lieutenant, with $44,084; Capt. Denise Duguay with $39,192; Rivera with $33,312; Sgt. Jeffrey Joniec with $32,177; and Sgt. Daniel Reardon with $29,885.

Those numbers, however, don’t take into account hours that are paid at an overtime rate from grants — work funded by the federal Office on Violence Against Women, for example, or federal task forces. Nor does it include off-duty detail work, such as traffic enforcement at construction sites.

The top earner of grant-funded overtime was Hart, who was paid $50,383 in 2020. Hart is the employee who writes many of the department’s grants and appears before the City Council to discuss them. Others who earned $20,000 or more in grant-funded overtime in 2020 were Pratt with $29,764, Albert with $20,268, and patrol officer Liam Glasheen with $20,205. Another eight officers made between $11,474 and $18,540 in grant overtime.

With those two categories of overtime combined, the top overtime earners in 2020 were: Albert with $106,115, Pratt with $97,135, Hart with $94,466, Monaghan with $70,293, Cournoyer with $59,692, Moriarty with $56,088, Glasheen with $45,358, Reardon with $43,160, Brach with $41,184, and Rivera with $40,812.

The Holyoke Police Department was allocated $12.6 million this fiscal year, $11.9 million of which was for personnel expenses. The department was budgeted money to employ 90 regular patrol officers, 27 supervising officers, the police chief and 24 reserve officers. Neither Febo nor Moriarty, the police department spokesman, responded to multiple phone calls and emails requesting comment for this story.

Contentious issue

The issue of rising police overtime pay has become a contentious issue in city government. Immediately after the City Council on April 12 selected Ward 2 Councilor Terrence Murphy as acting mayor, he said in an interview that one of his first meetings would be with Febo to discuss high overtime costs. Murphy took over for former mayor Alex Morse, who left to become Provincetown’s town manager.

On March 7, Holyoke patrol officer Rafael Roca put a spotlight on the department’s overtime pay when he posted on social media a video, now seen more than 54,000 times, alleging that his superior officers falsify overtime pay, have protected each other from punishment for misconduct and have fostered a culture of favoritism. In an earlier interview with the Gazette, he said he had worked on grant-funded overtime shifts during which supervisors who were supposed to be working were “nowhere to be found the entire shift.”

“Not one time did they respond to a call, not one time were they on the radio,” he said.

In a previous statement, Febo denied other accusations Roca made, although he has not publicly addressed the allegation of overtime abuse. After Roca made the allegations, City Councilors Rebecca Lisi, Juan Anderson-Burgos, Libby Hernandez and Gladys Lebron-Martinez filed an order seeking an independent review of the police department’s structure, policies and practices.

At the March 2 City Council meeting, Febo described a city that keeps the police department occupied with calls and crime, adding that the busiest summer months are now approaching. He said that during this fiscal year, police had received 28,646 calls for service. He said the department had made 667 drug arrests, responded to 17 stabbings and 68 shots fired, nine non-fatal shootings, three slayings — six in the calendar year — and a variety of other emergencies.

“You cannot have a crime problem and a budget surplus,” Febo told councilors.

Speaking before the City Council’s Finance Committee later, on April 26, he added that the department has nine patrol officer vacancies it is looking to fill out of a total of 90 such positions.

Council review

Murphy, who as Ward 2 councilor also chairs the City Council’s Public Safety Committee, said in an interview he intends to request more information from the police department about who is working overtime, why they are working it and what the results of that overtime work are. He said that councilors have scrutinized the issue of police spending in the past.

“I think we need to know: Are we getting the results we want from the money we are spending?” he asked. “And is there a way we could have done the same thing and have spent less money?”

Asked about the Gazette’s review of overtime, Murphy said he is interested to hear from the police department why some officers get more overtime hours than others — particularly more highly paid officers. He added that there could be logical explanations and that often the contracts the mayor’s office negotiates with the two police unions create those situations.

“Am I concerned that we spend a lot on overtime? Absolutely,” Murphy said. “I’m more concerned that what we do spend gets results.”

One reason higher-ups in the department have earned more overtime pay is because of their hourly overtime rates.

According to the department’s supervisors and patrol officers union contracts, an officer’s overtime rate is calculated by adding together four different pay categories — hourly rate, training rate, longevity incentive and educational incentive — and multiplying by 1.5. The police department’s top brass collects high longevity pay and education incentives under the state’s phased-out Quinn Bill, resulting in higher hourly overtime rates paid for by taxpayers.

The city’s top overtime earners — including supervisors and administrators — would have to log hundreds of overtime hours per year to collect the pay they pulled in last year, payroll records show.

However, that does not necessarily mean that an employee worked all of those overtime hours. In the city’s contracts with both police unions, for example, language stipulates that an employee who is called to work outside their regular tour of duty and shows up ready for work “shall be paid for not less than four (4) hours” at their overtime rate. The same is true if an officer appears in court as a witness.

“The court language — I get it, but it can kill us,” said At-large City Councilor Joseph McGiverin, who chairs the council’s Finance Committee.

He said officers testifying in court are often doing so outside their normal shift, taking time away from their personal lives. However, he added, sometimes officers testify for a short time period and get paid half a day of overtime.

“You just cringe when you think about that,” he said.

Holyoke’s union contract with patrol officers also states that the city will not allow supervisors to work overtime “when there are sufficient patrol officers willing to perform the task, or when there are three officers or less assigned to a detail.” The exception, the contract states, is if patrol officers are unavailable or refuse to take that work, or if “the practice has been to assign a supervisor as part of a detail.”

Patrol officer shortage

McGiverin said that the number of patrol officers in Holyoke is “dramatically down” for several reasons — retirements, resignations, the difficulties of quickly filling positions and fewer people choosing law enforcement careers nowadays. To help fill those gaps, he said the City Council is working to raise its cap on reserve officers the department can use.

“The reason superior officers take up operational overtime is because patrol officers refuse it or are not available,” McGiverin said of the department’s explanations. “I think there might be some legitimacy to that, but sometimes you go, ‘Come on.’”

McGiverin said the City Council is digging into the issue of overtime costs, having requested data from the department. The city’s contracts with the police unions state that “the City reserves its managerial prerogatives to expand the Department to deliver any services which public safety practices require.”

As for the police department’s recent request to shift funds from its patrolman account to its overtime account, the City Council’s Finance Committee agreed to recommend the approval of a $100,000 transfer — half the amount Febo originally requested.

At the April 26 meeting of the Finance Committee, Febo told councilors that $100,000 in additional overtime funds should be more than enough for the time remaining in the fiscal year. Even if he spent all of that overtime money, Febo said he projects that the department will spend $300,000 less on overtime this fiscal year compared to last.

“I want to get out there and do some proactive policing as we get into the most active months,” Febo said.

Staff writer Greta Jochem contributed reporting to this story.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.
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