Overtime probed for Pittsburgh mayor Ravenstahl's bodyguards

Part of grand jury investigation

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Various agencies, including the FBI and Pittsburgh's Office of Municipal Investigations, are reviewing hundreds of overtime slips filed by Pittsburgh police officers who have guarded Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, with the latest inquiry becoming public this week.

In June, the FBI seized several years of overtime requests -- known as "orange cards" -- submitted by Sgt. Dominick Sciulli, Sgt. Matthew Gauntner and retired Detective Fred Crawford Jr. in connection with an ongoing federal grand jury investigation.

The FBI subpoena was dated June 20, two days after Mr. Crawford testified before the grand jury about what his attorney called an investigation of the mayor and overtime abuse.

Last week, the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police got involved. Acting Chief Regina McDonald said six instances in which Mr. Crawford submitted two time slips for the same day were brought to her attention Thursday. The next day she contacted OMI Director Kathy Kraus.

Chief McDonald said Tuesday she is asking the OMI to audit overtime slips submitted by all of the mayor's bodyguards "to ensure there is no overpayment."

The chief said there is no wrongdoing being alleged on anyone's part.

"Very odd that it's coming up now," said attorney Robert Stewart, who represents Mr. Crawford. "It doesn't sound to me like this is a bona fide investigation."

Chief McDonald left open the possibility that the submission of two overtime cards for a particular day reflected work done both before and after a shift. And she said an investigation will include the people who signed off on the overtime cards -- they include former Chief Nate Harper and retired Lt. Donna Sims -- as well as the clerks responsible for inputting the data into the payroll accounting system. Chief McDonald refused to disclose what specifically prompted her review.

Marissa Doyle, the mayor's spokeswoman, said neither Mr. Ravenstahl nor Public Safety Director Mike Huss were involved in the decision to scrutinize Mr. Crawford's time cards.

Both men have expressed animosity toward Mr. Crawford after he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in February that the mayor and public safety director were aware that bodyguards were using debit cards linked to a secret account in order to hide certain expenditures from media scrutiny. Mr. Ravenstahl and Mr. Huss denied the accusations.

In March, Sgt. Sciulli and Sgt. Gauntner said that then-Chief Harper told security detail members in January 2008 to stop recording precise hours worked.

Attorney Robert Leight, who represents Mr. Harper, confirmed that the former chief told the security detail members to stop recording exact times. Mr. Leight did not know whether Mr. Harper was ordered to mandate that change.

"It's been known early on that Fred was told to alter time cards so that it didn't show overtime past midnight," Mr. Stewart said. The detective was told to find a way to write up his post-midnight hours as if they occurred at other times during the week, he said.

Mr. Stewart has said the investigation will reveal that "a lot of taxpayers' dollars" were "wasted so the mayor could have a designated driver ... while he went out to bars."

Mr. Stewart questioned the timing of the city's review of his client's overtime.

"So nobody looked at these cards back when they had been submitted?" he said, adding that there had been numerous opportunities to review security-detail time cards since Mr. Crawford's retirement Sept. 30, 2011.

Mr. Stewart said that even if there were discrepancies on a few old time cards, there would be little point to an OMI investigation now.

"He's retired, so what possibly could OMI -- the group that investigates officer conduct to determine if they should be disciplined ... what jurisdiction would they have over a retired cop?" Mr. Stewart said.

If city officials think they can find criminality, he added, they should consider whether any charge would be barred by the statute of limitations, which is two years for misdemeanor theft and five years for felony theft.

Attorney Patrick Livingston, who represents Sgt. Sciulli, said he is not authorized to comment.

Attorney Marty Dietz, who represents former security detail member Sgt. Gauntner, declined comment.

A review by the Post-Gazette of Mr. Crawford's and Sgt. Sciulli's time cards from 2006 through 2009 shows roughly a half-dozen discrepancies each. Some seem to be simple errors, such as the date and day of the week not matching.

In one instance, Mr. Crawford submitted -- apparently on two different dates -- separate requests for overtime worked Jan. 18, 2009. Together they added up to 28.5 hours. One was approved by Mr. Harper; the other by Ms. Sims.

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Jonathan D. Silver: jsilver@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1962. Liz Navratil: lnavratil@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1438. Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1542. First Published September 24, 2013 4:30 AM


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