An analysis of documents points to the conclusion that the Colorado Department of Corrections (DOC) is investigating overtime abuse in the parole division. Just as important to the analysis are emails that were withheld as part of an open records request.
The internal investigation focuses on parole officers who may have been maximizing their paychecks with exaggerated overtime hours when working on the “Electronic Monitoring Response Team,” or EMRT, in which some parole officers contact and manage parolees when their electronic monitoring systems have low batteries and need recharging, or if the monitoring systems have stopped working altogether.
The DOC has not yet answered questions about the investigation posed to them last Thursday, September 29.
Complete Colorado was already in possession of an email obtained from a confidential source which instructed parole officers how to bill their time for certain EMRT calls. We then filed a Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) request for various emails that mentioned EMRT which should have netted the previously mentioned email, but the document was not turned over by the DOC. According to Adrienne Jacobson, Associate Director of Legal Services, the release of the withheld emails would be contrary to the public interest because they might “substantially hamper an ongoing internal review.”
According to an analysis of state payroll information, Complete Colorado identified a handful of parole officers who were earning an additional 40 to 100 percent of their base pay through overtime in recent consecutive months.
For example, the charts below illustrate the base pay, overtime, and the overtime as a percentage of the overall pay for two of the parole officers in 2016. Complete Colorado is choosing not to name the individuals at this time.
|Parole officer A||Overtime ($)||Base pay ($)||OT as a percentage|
|Parole officer B||Overtime ($)||Base pay ($)||OT as a percentage|
OTHER MEDIA REQUESTS CREATE TIMELINE QUESTIONS
On July 11, Denver Post crime reporter Kirk Mitchell requested pay records for parole officers, including overtime payments going back to 2014. And before the end of the month, reporters with KMGH Channel 7 also requested similar pay and overtime information.
This set off a chain of emails, two of which, when added together, raise questions of whether parole management was being as upfront with their officers as they claimed to be.
On July 15, Parole Director Melissa Roberts emailed two of her colleagues saying, “I know the angle,” – referring to the angle of the stories apparently being pursued by the Post and KMGH.
Two weeks later on July 29, Roberts and Deputy Director of Parole Alison Morgan sent out an email to the entire parole staff. The email informed parole employees that requests for pay information had been filed, and the information would be turned over because it was public record.
However, the email also said, “If we learn more about the purpose of the open records request, we will let you know.”
Whatever “angle” was discovered on July 15 was not shared with the parole team on the July 29 email.
Additionally, the email obtained by Complete Colorado which was not turned over in the CORA request is the first indication that any persons in parole management might have thought there were problems with how parole officers were billing their time while on EMRT duty. That email was sent July 1, but no action or concern appears to have been generated until the July 15 records requests by the Post, unless the other withheld emails contradict that notion.
“IN OUR POCKET”
Just days after the mid-July payroll requests from media, the DOC’s spokeswoman Laurie Kilpatrick emailed Adrienne Russman in Governor Hickenlooper’s office as well as Melissa Roberts in the DOC and said, “Would you like to work with me on having a prepared response for the Parole OT? Adrienne R. suggested we have this in our pocket. I agree.”
The DOC did not respond to a question asking what was meant by “in our pocket.”
The DOC took almost one full month to deliver 41 emails to Complete Colorado under the Colorado Open Records Act, many of which were solicitations or automatically generated notices which needed no legal review or redaction.
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