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Allegheny County sheriff tightens regulations for off-duty work by deputies

| Wednesday, April 10, 2013, 12:29 a.m.

Allegheny County Sheriff William Mullen said Tuesday he “tightened up” regulations governing off-duty detail work by deputies and outlining where they can work because of problems with the off-duty policies of Pittsburgh police.

“Obviously when we saw what happened in the city, we wanted to review the policy, but we started this last year,” Mullen said.

The guidelines that his office issued last month state that the sheriff must approve all off-duty jobs. The policy prohibits deputies from working at strip clubs — an issue that sparked a lawsuit with Pittsburgh police — or as private detectives, bill collectors or for companies affected by strikes or lockouts. Mullen said the new policy clarifies an older one and adds detail.

The policy caps the number of off-duty hours at 30 per week unless vacation or comp time is used. Deputies who call in sick are not eligible to work an off-duty detail during that time, and the county will not pay for court time stemming from arrests during off-duty details.

“We agreed in principle to the policy,” said Deputy Tom Halaburka, president of the Allegheny County Deputy Sheriffs Association. “I think the sheriff has to have some control. We are wearing a uniform, we have a badge, and we are armed. It's common sense.”

The sheriff's office charges a 10 percent fee for moonlighting work contracted through the office, including large details such as a marathon in May and security for President Obama's visit to Carnegie Mellon University in July.

The sheriff's office collected $9,421.64 in 2012 from the fee. Most off-duty detail work is arranged and paid between the deputies and the secondary employer.

Mullen decided against processing all off-duty detail work through his office because overtime incurred would increase deputies' pensions, costing taxpayers more in the long run, he said.

Off-duty detail work and fees collected from it are at the center of a federal investigation involving Pittsburgh police. The FBI last month charged former Chief Nate Harper with diverting more than $70,000 in fees to secret accounts at the Greater Pittsburgh Police Federal Credit Union.

After acting Chief Regina McDonald banned officers from providing off-duty security at strip clubs last month, the owners of Blush, a Downtown strip club, asked a federal judge to block that policy.

City Council on Tuesday approved two bills designed to fix problems with off-duty work. One bill permits the city to charge a 10 percent fee for officers working off-duty details. Another begins a trust fund for the money. Pittsburgh has charged businesses employing off-duty officers $3.85 an hour to cover the city's costs of providing the service.

Brad Korinski, spokesman for the controller's office, said that office plans to meet with the sheriff and the county police in the next week to make sure their off-duty policies and procedures are in line with best practices, including collection of money, and do not increase liability for the county.

Korinski said the controller's office plans to examine all special-purpose accounts, including from the district attorney's office and Department of Court Records.

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

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