MHP Sergeant Suspended for ‘Overtime Abuse’

By Beacon Staff

BILLINGS – The Montana Highway Patrol suspended a Billings-based sergeant for a week without pay for claiming compensation from the patrol for work he did while also working a second job as a private security officer, The Billings Gazette reported Wednesday.

The Gazette obtained the letter Col. Mike Tooley sent to 12-year veteran Sgt. Jay Nelson informing him of his suspension from March 14-18. Nelson declined the newspaper’s request for comment.

The investigation into Nelson began after Nov. 24, when he was recorded asking a dispatcher to falsify the time he ended his shift, according to memos filed by Billings Police Capt. Keith Edgell, who investigated Nelson’s pay claims.

Edgell found that Nelson claimed pay for 103 hours of regular patrol time and for 10 hours of family medical leave sick time for paperwork he did while also working as a private security officer over a period of 22 days.

Edgell’s investigation also found that Nelson carried his MHP badge and ID card while working the armed security duty. Nelson said he used his own weapon and ammunition.

“Assertions of ‘stealing time’ were unsubstantiated during the investigation; rather, the inquiry found inadequate work performance during the time that was reported,” Justice Department spokesman Kevin O’Brien wrote in an email to The Associated Press.

The letter to Nelson cites 1.5 hours of overtime claimed on Nov. 24 for a DUI report that was filed on Dec. 2.

The letter also cites eight hours of questionable overtime Nelson claimed between Nov. 24 and Dec. 7, including four hours for uniform maintenance on Dec. 3 and 2.5 hours spent on uniform maintenance on Dec. 7.

During an interview with Edgell, Nelson said the Dec. 7 overtime was time he spent at home to “break down” his honor guard uniform after the funeral of MHP Trooper David DeLaittre in Three Forks.

Edgell also found that Nelson reported working in the office for three hours on Nov. 30. But two sergeants said he was in the office for only 45 minutes.

“During that time you reviewed 40 crash reports submitted by your troopers in 20 minutes, or 30 seconds per crash report,” Tooley’s letter notes.

Tooley also gave Nelson a one-year suspension from instruction, honor guard and all special overtime not approved in advance by his captain. Nelson is also required to reapply for off-duty employment quarterly, inform his captain of any activities related to that job and may no longer work from home.

“As a sergeant, you should set an example for your troopers to follow,” Tooley wrote. “By charging times for tasks either not completed or completed poorly you have failed to set that good example.”

Tooley also informed Nelson that failure to comply with MHP policies could result in his firing.

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