'Buddy day' records sought from Pittsburgh police officials
Pittsburgh police commanders scrambled on Thursday to track down records of agreements between officers to work for each other that did not make it to headquarters for review as required, according to a department memo obtained by the Tribune-Review.
A Trib request for records on “buddy days” prompted Acting Assistant Chief of Administration Thomas Stangrecki to discover that “buddy day requests may not have been received on a regular basis if at all” in the police Personnel & Finance office, the memo dated Wednesday said.
The request form stipulates that a copy is to be sent to the payroll office. Because the office does not have them, Stangrecki asked each police zone commander to locate the records, which detail an agreement for one officer to work for another on a day off at no cost to the city. The practice is more than two decades old.
Sam Walker, a retired professor of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, said the “buddy days” forms should be maintained in the chief's or deputy chief's office so top officials can provide oversight to make sure no one is abusing the system.
“The whole thing sounds like an ethical swamp,” Walker said. “I can see buddy days for some personal emergency, a family crisis or whatever, but if it's for convenience to work a second job, I don't like the sound of that at all. It begins to say your main job with the city is not that important.”
Lt. Larry Scirotto, who works in Zone 3, took at least 22 buddy days from November 2012 to November, according to daily assignment sheets obtained by the Trib. The 22 buddy days off were on days when Scirotto officiated college basketball games, according to statsheet.com. He worked 74 games in all during the 2012-13 season, according to the website.
The records do not show that Scirotto worked on his days off to repay days worked for him by a sergeant who has since transferred out of Zone 3.
“We can agree to a monetary settlement,” Scirotto said. “The repayment is an agreement between the two individual officers.”
The police contract prohibits officers from using buddy days so they can work at another job.
Zone 3 Cmdr. Catherine McNeilly said she approves buddy days without asking how officers intend to use them. She emphasized, though, that she would not allow cash payments for working buddy days.
“That practice is not condoned and it should not be allowed,” she said. “If it is taking place, it occurred without my knowledge.”
The city began a review of secondary and outside employment policies following a federal investigation into the police bureau.
The investigation led to the resignation and conviction of former Chief Nate Harper, who pleaded guilty to charges of diverting secondary employment money into a secret account for personal use, and failing to file income tax returns. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 25.
The Trib filed a Right To Know Law request for the “buddy day” forms to determine how frequently officers have used them and how much oversight the bureau's administration has had over the practice.
“We have been advised by the city law department not to respond to media questions,” Acting police Chief Regina McDonald said in an email on Thursday. “We are preparing our responses to the Right To Know requests and will be able to address your questions at a later date.”
McNeilly, as well as other commanders, said they keep copies of the forms in the zone station.
The payroll office is able to track who works for whom using the daily assignment forms that show the work status of officers.
Zone 5 Cmdr. Timothy O'Connor said he was surprised anyone would think to pay a fellow officer for working a buddy day.
“They're a really benign form,” O'Connor said. “This has never come up before. ... To me, it would seem outrageous that you would take cash for that.”
Scirotto said he received approval for his buddy days, and that he often works on his time off to make sure he meets his responsibilities as a lieutenant. He estimated he has about 65 days off a year, including comp time.
“I'm doing what I'm required to do,” Scirotto said. “It's all documented. I'm using the time that's allotted to me. … There is always an approval process. You can't just do it.”
Police union President Mike LaPorte said buddy days typically are used for officers who have run out of discretionary days off and need to cover for an off-the-job injury.
He said he's never heard of officers using buddy days to work a second job.
“That's not to say it hasn't happened,” LaPorte said.
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.
- Limited North Shore tailgating time yields success
- Allegheny County may send Pittsburgh HR complaints
- Unidentified body found in Stowe
- Newsmaker: Kara Petro Montgomery
- Tall ship makes return voyage to Presque Isle
- Mother, son displaced by West Mifflin fire
- Despite PSU-Central Fla., Dubliners slow to embrace American football
- Man stabbed to death outside North Side grocery
- $1.5 million Allentown church fire started by roofers, officials say
- Fire damages church’s roof in Pittsburgh’s Allentown section
- Surveillance cameras lead to arrest in Etna bank robbery