Gainer, Deputies Surrender Comp Time

Posted July 22, 2005 at 5:58pm

Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer and his deputies have agreed to surrender no fewer than 1,500 hours in compensatory leave, bringing them into belated compliance with federal regulations approved by Congress more than two years ago.

According to an opinion issued Friday by Government Accountability Office, a trio of Capitol Police officials — Gainer, Assistant Chief James Rohan and Chief Administrative Officer Anthony Stamilio — have accrued hundreds of hours of compensatory time while serving in their posts, despite prohibitions on the practice that went into effect under the fiscal 2003 omnibus spending bill.

“After the passage of section 1009 of the Consolidated Appropriations Resolution neither the USCP Chief nor the Assistant Chief is eligible for overtime pay or compensatory leave, since their annual rates of pay exceed the statutory cap on eligibility for overtime,” GAO General Counsel Anthony Gamboa wrote. In addition, GAO found the Chief Administrative Officer post is ineligible for overtime pay, but could receive compensatory time under “special circumstances” determined by the Chief or his designee.

The GAO opinion, which came at the request of the Capitol Police Board and in response to inquires made by the House Appropriations Committee, examined just the three officials, who occupy the only Capitol Police posts with salaries set by statute.

A Republican spokesman for the panel declined to discuss the opinion in detail, but said lawmakers will review the issue.

“We did have a concern in conjunction with the Police Board and we’re reviewing the opinion,” said House Appropriations Committee spokesman John Scofield.

Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.), ranking member of the Appropriations panel, said he was “disturbed” by GAO’s findings.

“It makes me angry and I am sure it will make the taxpayers angry,” Obey said through a spokeswoman.

“Given the responsibilities of the Capitol Police, we need to bend over backwards to give them the latitude they need,” he added. “But these kind of numbers make clear that the cost controls at the Capitol Police are as out of control as those at the Capitol Visitors Center.”

According to GAO, the Capitol Police Board issued a directive June 15 that halted the practice of issuing compensatory leave for the three posts.

In addition, Gainer, who took over the Capitol Police in June 2002, agreed to give up 1,500 hours in compensatory time he had received, according to a department spokesman.

“Chief Gainer reported that he complied with the USCP Board’s directive to eliminate his own compensatory leave balance,” GAO stated.

Gainer also erased Stamilio’s accumulated leave time since joining the department in May 2004, as well as the compensatory leave earned by Rohan since his promotion to assistant chief in June 2004. According to the report, Rohan, a Capitol Police office since 1975, would be permitted to maintain any time he had earned prior to his promotion.

It is not clear how many hours either official was required to forfeit.

The Capitol Police will, however, be required to “recover any unauthorized compensatory leave taken by these individuals by making appropriate adjustments to their annual and sick leave balances,” GAO stated.

A Capitol Police spokesman said Gainer has repaid 383 hours of annual leave, although figures for Rohan and Stamilio were not readily available.

“The department became aware a short time ago that a 2003 statute covering lieutenants’ and captains’ compensation also affected the compensatory and annual leave for the three statutory employees,” said Officer Michael Lauer, a department spokesman. “As a result of the GAO decision the three statutory employees eliminated their compensatory time balance and forfeited annual leave in the amount they had taken in compensatory time. The issue has been rectified and the department will continue to work closely with the board, committees and GAO.”

According to GAO, Gainer followed procedures established by his predecessor, former Chief James Varey, with regard to compensation.

“USCP Chief Terrance Gainer advised us that he maintained the overtime pay and compensatory leave policies that were in effect when he was sworn in as Chief in June 2002, which allowed all employees to collect overtime pay and/or compensatory leave routinely, as a result of clocking in and clocking out their daily hours,” the opinion stated.

Those policies, however, appear to have resulted in “high compensatory leave balances” for some Capitol Police employees, which GAO stated are the results of activities following the Sept. 11 2001, terrorist attacks, as well as separate incidents involving the discovery of anthrax and ricin on Capitol Hill.

The GAO opinion noted that both Gainer and Varey waived maximum annual limitations on accrued leave for Capitol Police officers “because of continued operations under emergency conditions, in accordance with existing regulations”

Gainer told GAO officials that those decisions were reviewed by the Police Board.

GAO officials, who are reviewing the law-enforcement agency’s overtime and leave policies, plan to issue a second opinion to address those issues as they relate to other Capitol Police employees, including civilians.