WARREN Officials threaten to discipline chief
Chief Mandopoulos disagrees with the way the city accounts for overtime.
By PEGGY SINKOVICH
and AMANDA C. DAVIS
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- The mayor and safety service director are not pleased with the police chief's job performance.
In an internal memo dated Dec. 10, Fred Harris, the city's safety-service director, said Police Chief John Mandopoulos has shown a "total lack of commitment to the administration of the police department."
Harris included a list of directives aimed at correcting "very serious problems" within the department. Mandopoulos faces disciplinary action if they're not followed, the letter states.
The letter does not state what type of disciplinary action the chief could face.
"All I am saying now is that I am reviewing the chief's response," Mayor Hank Angelo says.
The chief, however, says he would not be surprised if the administration finds a way to suspend him.
Mandopoulos said he has responded to the memo and is awaiting the city's response.
"I gave them everything they asked for two days before they wanted it," the chief said.
Chief's response: The memo says departmental overtime is out of control and continues to soar despite "repeated attempts" to work with Mandopoulos on the matter.
The chief says the city's methods of accounting for overtime don't accurately reflect what was spent.
As of Dec. 10, the city said Mandopoulos approved $256,000 for overtime -- a sharp increase from the $144,000 spent the year before.
Mandopoulos stated that the city auditor lumps overtime and holiday pay together in the same account, which has inflated the overtime account by $174,314.
Auditor David Griffing said that holiday time and overtime pay are both placed in the same account. He noted, however, that the department had the most overtime reported in June, a month with no paid holidays.
Special expenses: Mandopoulos said that overtime costs this year included $6,220 for security during the funeral of Minnesota Viking Korey Stringer -- an amount Mandopoulos says the city agreed to ahead of time. Stringer was a Warren native.
Mandopoulos also noted that the city is reimbursed overtime costs for officers working on federal investigations with agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the Drug Enforcement Administration.
A Dec. 13 memo from Capt. Tim Bowers to the chief said the DUI Task Force had already reimbursed the city $17,314 for overtime and other sources have reimbursed $10,453.
The chief further noted that police officers volunteered their personal time to provide security while the moving Vietnam Wall was in the city.
"The police department donated approximately 400 man hours of work to the city for that event," Mandopoulos said.
Harris' letter also directs Mandopoulos to inform all supervisory staff that Harris must approve overtime before it's granted and that captains are not to fill in for the chief unless he says so.
The chief also must provide Harris with a detailed financial analysis of overtime during every pay period, along with a determination as to whether the overtime could have been avoided.
It's been well documented that there's no love lost between city hall officials and Mandopoulos. They even banned him from city hall at one point last year because he disagreed with the administration on how to operate the department.
Effect of layoffs: Some officers, firefighters and other city employees were laid off in 2000 because of a budget crisis. Layoffs were recalled, but some positions have yet to be filled because of a lengthy civil service testing process.
"With 54 officers, we're doing wonders," the chief said.
One of the things Harris questioned in his memo was overtime charged for a Dec. 1 agility test the civil service commission gave to 77 prospective officers.
Mandopoulos maintains that 15 officers were used to man the event, handling registration, photography, walking candidates from test station to test station, keeping time for a 1.5-mile race and collecting pass/fail sheets.
The chief says only nine of 15 officers received overtime that day -- one less than what Mandopoulos said Harris approved.
Harris also has ordered the chief to give him a final report of the turkey shooting that happened in November and to inform him of the status of all internal affair investigations.
The chief said he has sent a report of the November shooting of a wild turkey to the director as well as the status of all internal affairs investigations.