Changes in the works for Pittsburgh Bureau of Police

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One department that was integral to the federal investigation into misappropriation at the Pittsburgh Police Bureau will be reshuffled, and changes to another could be on the way.

Public safety director Michael Huss said he plans to replace the two officers working in the Special Events Office, which coordinates officer moonlighting, with civilians and to move the office directly under his control.

He said he is "absolutely" looking at making changes to the bureau's personnel and finance office -- where police officials have said the misappropriation took place.

"Some of that will be forthcoming," he said, declining to go into specifics before they were finalized.

Mr. Huss said the changes are intended to restore the integrity of the bureau in light of internal concerns that some officers received preferential treatment in landing off-duty work and a federal indictment of former police Chief Nate Harper on a charge that he and others diverted money from the bureau into off-the-books accounts.

Pittsburgh police officers currently coordinate their off-duty work, colloquially known as details, through the Special Events Office.

The three people working there -- two officers and a civilian -- send invoices to private employers hiring officers and record when their checks come to the bureau. They then walk the checks down the hall to the bureau's personnel and finance office.

In January, Officer Christie Gasiorowski, who works in the Special Events Office, wrote a memo to her supervisor, Sgt. Carol Ehlinger, saying an employee in personnel and finance told her that two employees were taking checks off her desk and she thought Mr. Harper was somehow involved.

Mr. Harper was indicted in March on charges that he failed to file his income taxes and one charge that he conspired with others in the bureau to divert more than $70,000 to off-the-books accounts. His lawyers have said he intends to plead guilty.

Also influencing Mr. Huss' decision to make changes in the bureau were allegations that some people were receiving preferential treatment.

The bureau launched an internal investigation -- which remains open -- into a mysterious group of officers thought to have rigged the system, possibly so they could receive an early-warning text message about new detail openings.

Mr. Huss said he hopes to begin making changes to the Special Events Office in June and have the transition completed by July.

The office will move out of the bureau's North Side headquarters and into the first floor of the John P. Robin Civic Center, which also houses the fire bureau and the bureau of building inspection.

Civilian Nadine Brnilovich will continue to work in special events, alongside another civilian employee. Officer Gasiorowski and Sgt. Ehlinger will be reassigned, possibly to work under Assistant Chief of Operations Maurita Bryant, Mr. Huss said.

He said the Special Events Office will send invoices to private companies who hire officers to moonlight and the companies will now send their checks to the city Finance Department instead of to the bureau.

The city plans to sync the Cover Your Assets system officers use to schedule some of their details with the JD Edwards financial system the city uses. That would give both offices the ability to reconcile the checks, Mr. Huss said.

Additional changes might be made depending on the outcome of negotiations with the union.

Sgt. Michael LaPorte, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 1, said the union has been advocating for the changes and is "ecstatic" about them.

"This is the way you solve the problem," Sgt. LaPorte said. "You put everyone under the same roof. You get the police out of the process. That takes away any sense of impropriety or favoritism."

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Liz Navratil: lnavratil@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1438 or on Twitter @LizNavratil.


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