HARAHAN, La. -- The former second-in-command of the Harahan Police Department is under internal investigation after Eyewitness Investigates uncovered payroll irregularities, including payment for working with a DWI task force on a night the task force wasn’t in operation.
Capt. Manuel “Butch” Adams was placed on desk duty pending the outcome of the investigation, said Interim Police Chief Joseph Lorenzo, who launched the probe this week after receiving an inquiry from WWL-TV.
Adams is considered a hardworking and hands-on supervisor within the department, said Lorenzo, who was appointed interim chief in October after former Chief Mac Dickinson resigned to take a job with the State Police.
Lorenzo now is trying to determine if Adams went too far in giving himself assignments and claiming hours above and beyond his 40-hour work week.
“We’re launching an investigation,” Lorenzo said. “Anytime we have any type of irregularities, or potential irregularities are brought to our attention, we’re going to look into it.”
Payroll records obtained by Eyewitness Investigates show that Adams was the highest ranking – and highest paid – civil service police officer on the police force in 2013.
The records, which cover the first nine months of 2013, also show that Adams received the highest amount of overtime pay at the same time his rank as second-in-command put him in a position to dole out the hard-to-come-by overtime assignments.
Additional records show that Harahan officers sometimes get the chance to earn extra money by joining the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office working checkpoints under on a DWI task force grant.
Last year, according to JPSO records, Harahan was invited to join five such checkpoints. Each time, Adams got the assignment, even though at least 10 other Harahan officers are qualified with DWI training, according to Lorenzo. In one instance, on July 20, a Harahan reserve officer also worked the checkpoint – alongside Adams.
Harahan Mayor Vinny Mosca said he is troubled by the failure to give more officers the chance to earn extra money and professional experience.
Spreading the wealth is especially important on a bedroom community police force like Harahan’s, where salaries are modest and any chance at extra pay is coveted.
“You can't have one person working all the grants. You've got to spread them around,” Mosca said. “It's a problem. There's got to be more checks and balances to determine the allocation of money.”
But there’s a more serious question under review by the department.
On one of the DWI task force shifts claimed by Adams on his official time sheet, April 12, the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office said there was no such detail.
“Well, that's an issue that, obviously, has to be straightened out,” Mosca said.
Lorenzo vowed to get an explanation for the discrepancy.
“We'll look into that too,” Lorenzo said. “It's a red flag. It's not a good thing.”
Adams also serves in the Army Reserve, serving a stint in Iraq in 2008. Adams was still a reservist in 2012 when he was awarded several weeks of military leave, payroll records show.
But the records also show that Adams was paid for 17 days of military leave – calculated at 12 hours a day – when the department only allows 15. Based on the department’s standard 40-hour work week, Adams apparently was paid for the equivalent of 25 days, 10 days above the department limit.
Lorenzo said the internal probe should be completed by the end of the month. Until then, Adams has been administratively reassigned to desk duty, and has been stripped of all overtime, off-duty details and his take-home car pending the outcome, he said.
“I know him from, like I said, my time as a patrolman and he's always been someone who has worked hard. ... But these things do leave me pause to look into it and see what's going on, without a doubt,” Lorenzo said.
Adams was not allowed to comment due to the ongoing investigation. His longtime commander, former Chief Dickinson, said he could not comment due to his new position with the Louisiana State Police.