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More Police to Lose Comp Time

In anticipation of an upcoming Government Accountability Office report addressing the department’s overtime practices, Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer informed more than 200 officers and civilian employees last week that the agency will soon institute new policies that would reduce their allowable amounts of compensatory and leave time and could force some employees to forfeit some of that time already accrued.

The new policies, which were discussed during a meeting with employees last Monday, would bring 80 officers ranked lieutenant and above and some 140 civilian employees into belated compliance with federal regulations approved by Congress more than two years ago. The regulations directed Gainer to provide supplemental compensation to those employees in the same manner as it is granted to members of the Secret Service Uniformed Division and the U.S. Park Police.

Last week, Gainer took responsibility for the overissuance of leave and compensatory time since 2003.

“Given the work load, the expanded mission of this department, the threats of attacks and actual attacks on this campus, the annual leave balances and compensatory time balances of members of this department grew, and I waived the maximum carry-over amounts, in accordance with my authority, because of those exigent circumstances,” he said. “The law is now very clear to me; when the law changed in February of 2003, its nexus to D.C. code which dated back to 1950 was not. That is [an] error for which I am responsible.”

The GAO first began looking into the overtime and leave policies of the Capitol Police in early July at the request of members of the Capitol Police Board, which oversees the department, and representatives from the House Appropriations Committee.

“This is not a new standard, we’re just looking to bring them in compliance with the same standards that apply to the Secret Service and the Park Police,” Appropriations spokesman John Scofield said last week.

Late last month the GAO issued an opinion that looked into how the 2003 regulations applied to Gainer and two of his top deputies. In response the three officials agreed to surrender more than 1,500 hours of compensatory leave. As of last week, GAO spokesman Paul Anderson said the office’s second opinion, which addresses how the 2003 law applies to Capitol Police employees, was “under advisement and we will probably have something in the next two to four weeks.”

But Gainer said the first GAO report gave the department a good perspective on how the 2003 regulations should apply to the rest of the department.

“I’ve already been given clear directions from the Capitol Police Board, the first GAO report, and we’ve been looking into the yin and yang of what the next report will say,” Gainer said.

The overtime and leave changes that Gainer informed employees of last week, which still require the approval of the House Administration Committee and Senate Rules and Administration Committee, would cap annual leave time for all employees at 240 hours. Statutorily salaried employees and employees making more than $131,400 a year would not be eligible to receive comp time. For Fair Labor Standards Act nonexempt employees, the regulations would cap compensatory time at 240 hours. For all others, comp time would be capped at 80 hours.

Gainer said that while additional comp time or overtime could still be earned, it could not be a regular and recurring part of one’s duties.

The regulations would take effect following approval by House Administration and Senate Rules and Administration Committee, and employees could have until the end of 2006 to use compensatory time and annual leave in excess of the limits.

Gainer acknowledged that the changes are “tough on those civilians, as well as lieutenants and captains, because they had been earning compensatory leave for working long days for work which really is regular and recurring but just cannot be finished in eight hours. … The men and women here have been working hard for a number of years, and it is not as if they were accumulating this overtime by sitting around eating bonbons.”

He also said that further changes could come after the GAO issues its second opinion on the department’s overtime and leave policies.

“There certainly could be” additional changes, Gainer said. “The GAO could lay down an interpretation of the law which could further aggravate the situation.”

At the end of July, House and Senate appropriators issued a sharp reprimand to Capitol Police officials in the fiscal 2006 legislative branch spending bill, criticizing the department’s management while instituting stricter oversight of the agency. In the report accompanying the appropriations bill, lawmakers asserted they were “disappointed” with the agency, citing problems in “procurements, project management, budget execution, and payroll and compensation issues.”

To correct those deficiencies, lawmakers included language in the report instructing Gainer to implement a new “internal control program” using standards outlined by the GAO.

The legislation requires the police chief to submit a written plan Oct. 1 outlining the new internal controls, including an explanation of the department’s financial management system. Under the legislation, the department will be required to submit quarterly reports on its progress in implementing the plan.

Jennifer Yachnin contributed to this report.