Post-Gazette.com

Pittsburgh sergeant held 2nd full-time police job

Ravenstahl says he plans to appoint a special counsel to look into police matters, including secondary employment

February 9, 2013 3:00 PM
By Jonathan D. Silver and Rich Lord / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

In 2007, Pittsburgh police Chief Nate Harper apparently approved allowing Eric Holmes -- the sergeant whom he would later promote and go into private business with -- to work a second full-time job as interim head of Slippery Rock University's police force.

That year, then-Sgt. Holmes was earning almost $67,000 in base salary at the city police bureau for a 40-hour work week.

He made nearly $81,000 as interim director of campus safety and security from August 2007 to July 2008, the duration of the job, for what a university official described as "40-hours-plus" per week.

It is unclear what Cmdr. Holmes' schedule at the police bureau was like at that time. He declined comment for this story.

"His [Slippery Rock] work was predominantly on the daylight shift, if you will, basically a job that functioned during the normal business day," said John Bonando, the school's assistant vice president for student services, who was Cmdr. Holmes' supervisor.

The disclosure comes during the same week the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that in February 2012 Chief Harper entered into a private public safety consulting venture with Cmdr. Holmes, two other police officers and a civilian at the police bureau.

The chief has said the business was dormant and he planned to perform consulting work under its auspices in his retirement. He also said it did not figure in his promoting Cmdr. Holmes in August from the rank of sergeant to a position outranked only by the bureau's five chiefs. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl agreed, saying the commander was promoted on merit.

Mr. Ravenstahl said Friday that he is seeking a legal expert to study police policies on outside work in the wake of the revelation about Chief Harper. He said he had been unaware of both the business venture and Cmdr. Holmes' outside employment.

"Needless to say, when you have a police chief who's in business with his subordinates, it's not acceptable. So what I've asked the solicitor to do is contact and reach out to somebody outside of city government, to retain their expertise to come in and take a look at the policies and procedures of the police bureau," Mr. Ravenstahl said.

"At this point it appears nothing was done illegal but I'm not satisfied. This doesn't, from my perspective, fall in line with what those people should be doing and, again, we need to tighten up the policies and procedures and reform them."

As for Cmdr. Holmes, the mayor frowned on his work with Slippery Rock.

"I was just made aware of that recently, didn't know about it at the time, but once again when you look at work outside of work, while it may be legal, it's just something that shouldn't be happening," the mayor said.

Asked whether Cmdr. Holmes received approval from the director of public safety to work full time in another police capacity, Mr. Ravenstahl said, "Not that I'm aware of. I do believe that the chief, obviously, signed off on it."

Chief Harper could not be reached for comment Friday. His spokeswoman, Diane Richard, said, "I don't know if it was a handshake or a verbal agreement or whatever."

Ms. Richard said further questions about Cmdr. Holmes' work for Slippery Rock must take the form of a formal, written request under the state Right-to-Know Law.

Pittsburgh's city code says "No person shall hold more than one compensated position in City government and no compensated city employee shall hold a compensated position in any other government" except in five specific cases, none involving police work.

It is not clear whether a state university is considered a government for purposes of the code.

Elizabeth Pittinger, executive director of the Citizen Police Review Board, questioned the wisdom of allowing a police officer to work another full-time job. Police regulations allow officers to work up to 32 hours per week while moonlighting.

"Obviously, it can't be a safe practice for a police officer to be working two full-time jobs. I mean he's going to be fatigued. If you look at contemporary police practices, they even seem to speak to limiting secondary details because of the fatigue factor," Ms. Pittinger said. "I'm a little bit stunned with that, actually."

Sgt. Mike LaPorte, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, said secondary employment rules apply only to work for the city of Pittsburgh, and there is no such restriction on outside employment.

Police officers often look for second jobs to make ends meet, he said, and as long as they can perform their police duties, he sees no problems with it.

Cmdr. Holmes also earned $12,500 for consulting work he did for California University of Pennsylvania's police department from October 2009 to May 2011, school spokeswoman Christine Kindl said. He was a co-consultant with Pittsburgh police Lt. Larry Scirotto, who was paid the same amount, Ms. Kindl said.

Mr. Bonando gave high marks to Cmdr. Holmes, who is a Slippery Rock graduate and became chairman of the Council of Trustees in June.

He said Cmdr. Holmes assured the school that he was fine working two full-time jobs.

"We asked him if he had the ability to perform the duties and functions on a full-time basis. He indicated that was something he could do without too much of a concern," Mr. Bonando said. "We had absolutely no concerns at all."

The position description for the Slippery Rock job is extensive and says that the jobholder shall "be available and on call 24 hours per day 365 days per year, manage and respond to campus emergencies and mitigate hazards."

"He was a full-time employee. He worked about 40-hours-plus a week, I would say usually more on the plus side. He did a variety of administrative and managerial tasks for the police department." Mr. Bonando said.

"He delivered beyond expectations."

Also Friday, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr.'s office issued more detailed information about his review of the corporation involving Chief Harper, Cmdr. Holmes, Sgt. Barry Budd, Officer Tonya Ford and Tamara Davis, a civilian in the police bureau.

Mr. Zappala had previously said there was nothing illegal about the formation of Diverse Public Safety Consultants LLC, but he cautioned that if the police officers associated with the firm performed certain types of work there could be potential illegal activity.

On Friday, Mike Manko, Mr. Zappala's spokesman, said the office looked at the description of the various services advertised on the group's website, which was taken down Wednesday within hours of the Post-Gazette inquiring about it.

"From the information on the website that has apparently been taken down and/or deactivated, it appears that a number of the subheadings involve activity that would violate the Private Detectives Act, specifically those sections involving the training and placing of personnel," Mr. Manko said.

The DA's office intends to prepare a "cease and desist letter" to the organizers of the company "advising them of the potential violations and the proper licensing procedure," Mr. Manko said.

The Web address used by Diverse Public Safety Consultants was registered by D&T Enterprises, according to online domain name lookup services.

In 2011, the police bureau twice hired a firm called D&T Enterprises, with a Homestead post office box as its address, to provide goods and services for which it was paid a total of $7,037, according to city records.

An invoice from D&T Enterprise Catering by Kim, for $1,350, indicated that the bureau ordered six dinners for 30 people each for its G.R.E.A.T. Family Training program.

The cell phone number listed on the invoice is held by a Kim Montgomery. The person who answered that cell phone said only, "I have no comment for you, and don't call my phone no more." Messages left seeking comment after that were not returned.

Pittsburgh police Officer Tonya Montgomery-Ford, one of the organizers of Diverse Public Safety Consultants, is the daughter of a Kim M. Montgomery, who is also a city account clerk working at police headquarters. Reached at that office, Ms. Montgomery would not comment for this story.

Officer Montgomery-Ford works at headquarters.

Also in 2011, D&T Enterprises billed the city three times for a total of 2,360 knapsacks for use in the anti-drug D.A.R.E. program. A form required for expenditures taken without competitive bidding explained that "this vendor has best pricing and availability of services needed."

The city paid D&T Enterprises $5,687 for the bags.

It's unclear who owns the company. The D&T Enterprises that submitted the bills does not appear to be registered with the state.

Ms. Richard of the police bureau said she had no information on the company.

The state Ethics Act says that no "public employee or his spouse or child or any business in which the person or his spouse or child is associated" can get a contract with the employee's governmental body for $500 or more, unless it "has been awarded through an open and public process."

First Published February 9, 2013 5:00 AM