Suspended 8 months ago, 4 Pittsburgh police employees remain off job
Four Pittsburgh police employees have been on paid leave for eight months, and their representatives said Wednesday they still don't know why.
“Only in America,” said attorney Bill Difenderfer, who represents Sandy Ganster. “They're paying a lot of people not to work. There's no reason for them to not work. She's ready, willing and able to work.”
Acting police Chief Regina McDonald placed Ganster, manager of the police Office of Personnel and Finance, on a paid but unexplained leave the first week of March, Difenderfer said. Deputy Chief Paul Donaldson said Ganster's status has not changed.
McDonald placed personnel and finance civilian employees Tammy Davis and Kim Montgomery and Officer Tonya Montgomery-Ford on paid leave in February. Donaldson referred questions on their status to Public Safety Director Mike Huss, who declined to comment.
Montgomery-Ford, a master police officer, earned $103,877 in total pay in 2012, according to payroll records. Montgomery-Ford contacted Sgt. Mike LaPorte, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge No. 1, when she was suspended but didn't ask the union to take any action.
“She's sitting at home getting full pay,” LaPorte said. “There has not been another conversation about it.”
Ganster earned $72,542 during 2012, Davis $44,047 and Montgomery $41,218, according to records.
Judy Hill Finegan, director of the city's Personnel & Civil Service Commission, did not return a call seeking comment.
Samuel Cordes, an attorney with more than 25 years of experience in employment law, said unless the collective bargaining agreement requires it, employers do not have to give a reason for a paid suspension.
“It's not an adverse employment action because basically you're getting a vacation,” he said.
McDonald has said she suspended the employees until an FBI investigation into the police department is completed. FBI spokeswoman Kelly Kochamba declined to comment.
Davis and Montgomery-Ford were business partners of indicted former police Chief Nate Harper. Davis, Montgomery-Ford, Cmdr. Eric Holmes and Sgt. Barry Budd formed a company — called Diverse Public Safety Consultants LLC — in February 2012 with Harper. Kim Montgomery is Tonya Montgomery-Ford's mother.
“We said, ‘How can you suspend one officer and not the others?' ” LaPorte said. “(Montgomery-Ford) was part of this company, but there are others that were a part of it that are still on the job.”
Difenderfer said Ganster went to Public Safety Director Michael Huss on Feb. 9 with concerns about spending from an unauthorized account at the Greater Pittsburgh Federal Credit Union. She was one of eight city employees with a debit card tied to a credit union account.
She told investigators that Harper used money from the account to buy riot shields for police during the Group of 20 economic summit in 2009 and outdoor furniture and ashtrays for a deck at police headquarters. Difenderfer likened the credit union to a “petty cash” drawer that Harper used at his discretion. Difenderfer said Ganster went to Huss because she learned money from the credit union account paid for a promotion party for Holmes.
A federal grand jury indicted Harper in March on charges he diverted more than $70,000 from the police department's special events office into a private account and spent $31,986 of the money on personal expenses. He is charged with four counts of failing to file tax returns and plans to plead guilty on Friday.
Difenderfer said as a taxpayer he finds it “disgusting” that Ganster has been off the job for so long.
“How do you say, ‘I want to work. I can't stand this not working and getting full pay,' ” he said. “I don't understand what they're doing and why it's taking so long.”
Margaret Harding is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8519 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Brentwood vigil marks death of black motorist 19 years ago, other deaths
- Pittsburgh mayoral staffers appointed to Wolf’s transition team
- Man questioned in Penn Hills parents’ disappearance
- Peduto redefines post in just his 1st year as Pittsburgh’s mayor
- Pittsburgh student jailed after striking school police officer
- Pittsburgh police to test new ‘ShotSpotter’ gunshot-detection system
- Lawyer quits Scaife case over possible conflict as PNC defends distributions
- Larimer neighborhood turning corner toward renewal with development