Highway patrol sergeant suspended for 'overtime abuse'
BILLINGS — The Montana Highway Patrol suspended a Billings-based sergeant for a week without pay for claiming compensation from the patrol for time he actually spent working a second job as a private security officer, The Billings Gazette reported Wednesday.
The Gazette obtained the letter Col. Mike Tooley sent to 12-year veteran Sgt. Jay Nelson informing him of his suspension from March 14-18. Nelson declined the newspaper's request for comment.
The investigation into Nelson began after Nov. 24, when he was recorded asking a dispatcher to falsify the time he ended his shift, according to memos filed by Billings Police Capt. Keith Edgell, who investigated Nelson's pay claims.
Edgell found that Nelson claimed pay for 103 hours of regular patrol time and for 10 hours of family medical leave sick time while working as a private security officer over 22 days.
The letter cites 1.5 hours of overtime claimed on Nov. 24 for a DUI report that was filed on Dec. 2.
he letter also cites eight hours of questionable overtime Nelson claimed between Nov. 24 and Dec. 7, including four hours for uniform maintenance on Dec. 3 and 2.5 hours spent on uniform maintenance on Dec. 7.
During an interview with Edgell, Nelson said the Dec. 7 overtime was time he spent at home to "break down" his honor guard uniform after the funeral of MHP Trooper David DeLaittre in Three Forks.
Edgell also found that Nelson reported working in the office for three hours on Nov. 30. But two sergeants said he was in the office for only 45 minutes.
During that time you reviewed 40 crash reports submitted by your troopers in 20 minutes, or 30 seconds per crash report," Tooley's letter notes.
Tooley also gave Nelson a one-year suspension from instruction, honor guard and all special overtime not approved in advance by his captain. Nelson is also required to reapply for off-duty employment quarterly, inform his captain of any activities related to that job and may no longer work from home.
"As a sergeant, you should set an example for your troopers to follow," Tooley wrote. "By charging times for tasks either not completed or completed poorly you have failed to set that good example."
Tooley also informed Nelson that failure to comply with MHP policies could result in his firing.
Tooley was not immediately available Wednesday morning to comment on the amount of extra pay Nelson received or if he was required to repay the money.