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Review finds Southampton police recordkeeping flawed

Southampton Town Police Department in Hampton Bays. (May

Southampton Town Police Department in Hampton Bays. (May 17, 2012) Credit: Randee Daddona

The Southampton Police Department's timekeeping system has "major shortcomings" that allow some employees to change their own hours without a log and lacks written rules about tracking benefit balances used to make big payouts when personnel retire, according to an outside review of the department's system obtained through a Freedom of Information request.

Records for accrued sick leave for police officers, detectives and supervisors -- known as a "bank" in law enforcement circles -- are kept manually by the department. Officers are asked to sign off on it themselves with their initials, according to the report by Cullen & Danowski of Port Jefferson Station, which reviewed records from Jan. 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012.

The system asks employees to confirm their own time-off records.

"As the accumulation of benefit balances over several years is used as a basis to make substantial payouts at the time of termination, this process should be strengthened," the report said.

Don Hoffmann, a principal with the accounting firm, told Southampton Town Board members last week that any discrepancy found by the financial company was not significant.

On the termination payouts, for example, the report found a number of procedures needed to be formalized.

"We found several minor incorrect payments, and the Department was unable to provide documentation for amounts paid for carry-forward vacation," it said.

But the review also acknowledged the scope was limited.

"We were not engaged to and did not conduct an audit," according to the draft. "Had we performed additional procedures, other matters might have to come our attention that would have been reported."

Former police Chief William Wilson Jr., who retired last year after a contentious 18 months in the position, raised red flags about the timekeeping system early in his tenure.

"The system concerned me," he said in an interview. "It invited abuse."

But, he said, "If it takes a $50,000 audit to get them to take steps to rectify the system, it's money well spent."

Chief Robert Pearce, who signed off on the final report, said a new process has been implemented to better track the time off and payroll system.

But he acknowledged the town's payroll system needs to be updated. The town is currently writing up a bid, he said. "We've been looking for an update to that system for several years," Pearce said.

There's no current timeline for when the bid will be issued, he said.

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