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Disciplinary action taken by Cook County sheriff following 'Time Fraud' probe

Friday, September 08, 2017
Chicago Tribune

Suspensions and pink slips have been handed out to 48 Cook County sheriff’s officers who allegedly showed up late and left early during shifts at the Leighton Criminal Court Building, officials said.

The workers, all assigned to the weekend bond court shift at the Cook County Criminal Court Building, often arrived late to work and left the workplace for periods of time while earning full pay,’’ a statement released by the sheriff’s office said.

Thirty-five staffers, including 27 deputies and eight supervisors, were given suspensions while the sheriff’s office is seeking to fire 11 deputies and two supervisors who allegedly piled up more than 85 hours of fraudulent time, according to Cara Smith, a top policy adviser to Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.

Their job duties involved getting detainees ready for bond court, processing after court and securing the courtroom. Though most of those disciplined were deputies, ten were their supervisors.

“It’s extremely concerning when the supervisors you have in place to make sure employees are at work...When they fail, it has a snowball effect,’’ Smith said.

“That’s part of what happened here: the supervisors are looking the other way or in some cases engaged in the same time fraud as their subordinates. They set a tone where the deputies are following in line with their supervisors.’’

The suspensions will range from 15 to 60 days will be given to the remaining 35 officers, comprised of 27 deputies and eight supervisors. Additionally, the supervisors will be disciplined for “failure to supervise their subordinates,’’ Smith said.

It’s unclear what sparked the long-term investigation, which began in early 2016, but at least partially, it was prompted by coworkers who reported the behavior. An audit of attendance patterns was completed, which showed hundreds of hours of video surveillance at the courthouse, Smith said.

Since the investigation, the sheriff's office has implemented a series of reforms aimed at increasing accountability, such as increased supervision, significant time audits and the introduction of electronic accountability measures.

Smith said the terminations are not immediate, by state law they must be must be adjudicated by the independent Merit Board before taking effect.

“Hopefully it sends a strong message to staff that we are public servants paid by taxpayers,’’ Smith said. “It’s a betrayal of trust.’’

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