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Some Cape police officers may have to return incentive pay

By Staff | Nov 23, 2010

Several police officers may have to reimburse the city of Cape Coral for educational incentive pay that they were not entitled to.
An internal investigation was opened earlier this year after the Cape Coral Police Department discovered that an officer had accepted nearly $4,000 in academic incentive pay for a college degree that he did not have. The officer resigned, but the incident sparked an agency-wide review of employee pay.
“This was a result of the termination of Officer (Albert) Arroyo,” Connie Barron, spokeswoman for the Cape police, said. “The PD (police department) did an internal investigation to determine if any other officers were receiving educational incentive pay and not entitled to it.”
As of Tuesday, Barron did not know how many officers were involved.
“Nothing has been resolved, so I don’t know who or how many yet,” she said. “The process has not yet been completed and is being discussed between the union’s attorney and the city’s union negotiator.”
Barron could not comment on what the two parties are talking about.
“Until it’s resolved between the attorneys, it’s still an open investigation,” she said.
One city official believes that he has an idea of what is being discussed. Councilmember Bill Deile said he heard the parties are talking about putting into place a program that would require the officers to pay back the money and obtain the college credits that they had been earning the extra pay on.
“They were being paid for earning college credits that they never obtained,” Deile said. “They got pay increases without submitting the proof.”
After the Arroyo incident, Interim Police Chief Jay Murphy sought an audit of the entire department. Initially, officials believed that about 45 officers were at fault, but the list now has been narrowed down to seven or eight officers.
“Those that don’t really have any valid excuse for taking the money and not getting any credit,” Deile said.
He added that Murphy told him the city paid out $80,000 to $100,000.
Though Deile referred to not reporting unentitled extra pay on one’s check as “willful blindness,” he said poor record keeping at the department and lack of responsibility on the part of the officers’ supervisors also played a part.
“Apparently, nobody ever checked the documentation,” he said.
“If we could prove that they falsified records, or that they lied and told the payroll people that they obtained the credit,” Deile added, “I would be seeking their dismissal.”
According to officials, an investigation found that Arroyo received $3,820 in academic incentive from July 7, 2006, to June 25, 2010. A clerical error on his profile sheet reflected that he had a master’s degree. After receiving a one-time $800 payment, he made $80 extra in each paycheck for the degree.
Arroyo did not have a degree or credit through an accredited institution.
Murphy notified Arroyo that he intended to take disciplinary action up to and including suspension or termination, and Arroyo submitted his resignation. He requested that the city deduct the amount he had taken from his last check.
A school resource officer with the Investigative Services Bureau, Arroyo had worked at the agency since June 2006. His annual salary was about $51,000.