Top cops in S.F. cash out with big retirement paydays

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On Monday, the San Francisco Chronicle published some eye-opening salaries paid to law enforcement chiefs on their way to retirement.

In 2009, retiring S.F. Police Chief Heather Fong, age 52 at the time, collected $528,595 in her final year, which included $303,653 for unused vacation, sick and comp time. She will receive an annual pension of $229,500 for the rest of her life.

Former Deputy Chief Charles Keohane, who also retired in 2009, collected $516, 118 in his final year, which included $325,503 for unused vacation, sick and comp time.

Retiring Commander and S.F Assistant Police Chief Morris Tabak took home $425,558 in his final year, which included $173,703 in unused vacation, sick and comp time.

Three Bay Area Rapid Transit senior officers also did well by retiring in 2009 and 2010. Commander Travis Gibson earned a total of $355,000, Commander Maria White earned a total of $282,453 and Sgt. Mark Macaulay took home $286,152, including $140,908 in overtime. Macaulay is still employed on the force, and may pop up next year again as a highly-paid member of the BART police department.

All the retiring police officers also will receive six-figure pensions.

The San Francisco Chronicle

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Dallas police officer arrested for scamming tip bureau

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A Dallas police officer, Senior Cpl. Theadora Ross, who was in charge of a popular tip hotline called Crime Stoppers, was arrested on Thursday for teaming up with another woman to defraud the unit out of over $250,000.

Prosecutors say Ross, 50, who ran the program since 2005, passed phony tip information to her accomplice, Malva Delley, 36, who would then claim rewards. They were each indicted with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

This is the way the tip program worked:

Informants would call a hotline with an anonymous tip about a crime. After providing the information to an operator, they would be given a tip number and password. Tipsters would call back periodically with their numbers to see if their tips resulted in a reward.

If they earned a reward, the tipster would go to a local bank, and using the case number and password, claim a reward of up to $5,000.

Ross was responsible for preparing the list of tips that were eligible for rewards, and sending the information to the bank. “These lists would include tip numbers and code words for tips that had been tampered with or altered by Ross together with legitimate cash reward tip numbers and code words,” according to court papers.

Prosecutors claim that the couple would “divide the cash, per Ross’ instructions, and deliver Ross’ share of the illegally obtained money by either directly depositing cash into Ross’ Bank of America bank account or by giving cash directly to Ross.”

The Dallas Police Department issued a statement saying that the alleged action was a “major breach of public trust.” An internal affairs investigation in the near future is expected to result in her firing.

Police official said no false arrests were made as a result of the scheme.

The Dallas Morning News

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Former police officer caught stealing groceries, hired by sheriff’s department

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The Norfolk County Sheriff’s office has confirmed that it hired a former Walpole, Mass. police officer, who resigned from the department after he was accused of blatantly stealing groceries from a local Stop & Shop market.

In April 2009, David Haddigan was placed on administrative leave from the Walpole Police Department, after authorities said he repeatedly filled up shopping carts with food while in uniform, and left without paying. Store employees did not stop or report him, for fear of retaliation. Other officers in the department learned of his actions, and turned him in.

Haddigan resigned from the force on July 1, 2009 after a number of meetings with police and town leaders, during which he was confrontational and uncooperative.

Haddigan could have afforded to pay for the groceries, having earned a total of $129,000 in 2008.

A sheriff’s department spokesman, David Weber, released a statement saying they were well aware of the alleged thefts before they hired Haddigan. “His eight years of service as a correction officer with the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office prior to working in Walpole demonstrated to us that he has the ability to perform this job,” the statement read. “Mr. Haddigan has a master’s degree in criminal justice and he underwent the same evaluation and assessment procedures that all of our recruits undergo prior to their appearance into the academy.”

Despite the alleged crimes, Haddigan did not face criminal charges after his co-workers reported the thefts.

Following Haddigan’s resignation, Walpole’s Police Chief, Richard Stillman, said that it was better for Haddigan to quit, rather than pursue legal action against the officer and incur a lengthy and costly battle in courts and with the police union. “That was the best thing for the department. He was removed and he’ll never be a police officer again.”

That is, until 2011.

Wicked Local Walpole

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Widow seeks child support from taxpayers for son conceived after police captain’s death

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New Jersey pension board officials are considering whether to provide pension benefits for a child that was conceived through in-vitro fertilization using sperm harvested from the body of a retired Newark police captain, who died in a scuba diving accident.

The N.J. police officer's widow is seeking pension benefits for the child, who was born more than a year after the officer died in an accident.

The retired police captain, Gary Prystauk, was 50 at the time of the accident, in which doctors say he had a heart attack while diving in the icy Shrewsbury River in November 2006.

His widow, Francia Prystauk, says that the couple had been married for 18 years and had tried numerous times to start a family, but each attempt resulted in a miscarriage. After the accident, while she was at the hospital, she made the decision to harvest her husband’s sperm, after a business card fell out of her purse from a fertility clinic that the couple had  visited earlier.

“I had a moment of clarity,” she said. “I took it as a sign.” Doctors removed a specimen about six hours after the husband’s death.

Prystauk used the specimen several months later, and the child was conceived in March 2007. Her son Jacob was born on Dec. 7, 2007.

The pension board originally denied paying benefits to her son because he was born more than one year after the death of his biological father. Her new appeal is based on a court ruling she received declaring Jacob to be the biological son of Gary Prystauk.

Prystauk, 40, is currently receiving pension benefits of $4,273.50 per month as the widow of a retired officer. She is seeking another $1,282.05 for Jacob, which he would receive until the age of 18.

A recent appellate court ruling in Philadelphia found that a child who was conceived after his father’s death was entitled to social security survivor benefits. In that case however, the sperm was donated by the father while he was still alive and the father was involved in the decision to have the child

The police and fireman’s pension board said it does not know what to do, and has turned the matter over to its attorneys to decide.

However, the widow Prystauk thinks the issue is clear: “Jacob had a father, he just happened to pass away.”

The Star-Ledger

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Boston judge tosses evidence on paroled twice-convicted killer, caught with cash from robbery

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A judge in Boston ruled that police did not have probable cause in the arrest of a twice-convicted killer, forcing prosecutors to drop weapons and robbery charges against him. The ruling came only a few days after paroled “triple-lifer” Dominic Cinelli allegedly gunned down and killed police officer John “Jack” McQuire in suburban Woburn.

Gerald Hill, 48, was convicted of second degree murder in 1978, while awaiting trial on a fatal 1977 stabbing incident. He was released from prison on parole in Sept. 2009.

On November 9, 2009, Hill was spotted by police officer George Dias, running erratically down a street with a shopping bag and dodging cars, when he jumped in the back of a taxi and slumped down.

Dias left his post upon hearing of a robbery at the Boston Cab Co. and possible shots fired — when he spotted Hill. Dias approached the taxi with two backup officers, at which time Hill briefly pulled a gun on the officers. In the back of the taxi with Hill was $21,000 in cash, plastic zip ties and two handguns.

In his ruling, Judge Mitchell H. Kaplan found that Dias was acting on a “hunch” when he decided to pursue Hill for “some manner of illicit conduct that warranted further investigation, but did not have a reasonable suspicion based on specific facts.”

Without being able to use any of the evidence, Suffolk County prosecutors decided to drop the case.

A police spokesperson said “We respect the judge’s decision, but clearly the officer had excellent instincts and did commendable work.”

Even though the charges were tossed out, Hill remains in jail on separate charges of parole violation.

Boston Herald

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Former sheriff and congressional candidate probed for using city credit card to purchase lots of gasoline

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Police officer Beau Babka, who unsuccessfully ran for Salt Lake County Sheriff last year and previously ran for U.S. Congress, is under criminal investigation by the district attorney’s office for allegedly using his city-issued credit card to repeatedly purchase gasoline for his personal vehicles.

The Salt Lake Tribune called him one of the most high-profile law enforcement officers in the state of Utah for the last two decades.

Babka made the frequent and suspicious purchases, as often as twenty minutes apart. Records released by Salt Lake City suburb Cottonwood Heights, showed Babka made 27 gas purchases between Nov. 11 and Dec. 29, the period under review by the county DA.

The records showed that Babka purchased gas multiple times on four days.  On Nov. 29, he purchased 7.3 gallons in Draper, where he lives, at 11:01 a.m., and then another 12.2 gallons at the same station twenty minutes later.

On Dec. 12, he bought gas on three occasions: once in the morning in Cottonwood Heights, then twice that evening in Draper, 18 minutes apart.

Babka, a Republican, ran on the Democratic ticket for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2004. He previously served as police chief in South Salt Lake City and as undersheriff to current Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder. Babka is an adjunct instructor in the criminal justice program at Salt Lake Community College.

Babka has been put on leave pending the investigation.

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Pittsburgh city council passes $737.7 million parking tax to avert pension fund takeover

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After years of attempting to make sense of the city’s financial predicament with its employees’ massively unfunded pension plan, the city council passed a 37.5 percent parking tax ordinance, and passed on its proceeds to the plan for the next 31 years. The city council’s action beat a state-imposed deadline by only 8 hours.

Pittsburgh's city council passed a $737.7 million parking tax that will be collected from taxpayers not yet born. Even after doing so, its employee pension plan is only one-half funded.

The city council and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl had been battling for months over the best way to avert the state’s takeover of the pension plan, which could have occurred as early as Jan 1. The state of Pennsylvania requires that retirement plans be at least 50 percent funded; Pittsburgh’s was only 29.3 percent funded at the end of the third quarter. A consultant’s report said the plan has about $325 million in assets to cover about $1 billion in benefits that the city promised its workers.

If the state were to take over the plan, it would require an onerous payment plan to bring plan balances to a fully-funded level. The city feared that the state would immediately order it to double its $46 million contribution to the plan by 2015, and raise it to $160 million by 2030. Under the state’s supervision and funding requirements, the city would be severely constrained in its ability to provide even the most basic city services.

Two months ago, Ravenstahl floated a plan that would lease the city’s parking facilities for 50 years to a private operator, raising $452 million. The city council rejected that proposal.

Normally, the only method to increase the balance in a pension fund is by the deposit of monies.  The executive director of Public Employees Retirement Commission, James McAney, has said that he would approve the deposit of another form of “value”, in this case, a dedicated income stream from the parking tax imposed on residents.

Even after the vote, officials won’t know if the plan will be enough to keep the state from taking over the plan. Actuaries will need several months to calculate if the fund balances will rise to 50 percent, after the infusion of the parking tax.

Even after imposing the outsized tax, bringing the fund’s balance to the required 50 percent level means that the city will only have reserved one-half the monies it promised its police, firefighters and city workers, and that more tax hikes and service reductions will be needed in the future.

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