May 12, 2018 9:59:18 PM
Zack Plair - [email protected]
A member of Columbus Police Department's criminal investigation division has racked up more than 338 hours of overtime in the last four months, some of it as Mayor Robert Smith's driver.
The Dispatch, through a Freedom of Information Act request, obtained documents that show the city paid Investigator Reginald Adams almost $8,000 for 338.25 overtime hours between Jan. 1 and May 1. That's in addition to the $13,320.56 Adams was paid for 845.75 "regular hours."
Adams' overtime vastly outpaces that of other CID investigators, with only three others -- Samuel Jackson (194), Thomas Watkins (175.25) and Tabertha Hardin (135.5) -- exceeding 100 overtime hours in that time frame. Adams moved to CID from patrol shortly after Fred Shelton became police chief in January.
Also in response to The Dispatch's FOIA request, the city provided receipts for a trip to New Orleans on Feb. 26-27, for which Adams reportedly drove the mayor and City Planner George Irby to an "Affordable Housing Conference" sponsored by the Federal Home Loan Bank.
The receipts show the city paid $183.57 for Adams' hotel stay in New Orleans and a $255.89 purchase on a city credit card at Morton's Steakhouse, where Smith, Irby and Adams presumably ate. Smith's signature is on the restaurant receipt.
In an emailed statement to The Dispatch, Smith said the council had approved he and Irby to attend the conference. The mayor then asked Shelton if an officer could drive them and added Adams to the trip itinerary without council approval.
"The city of Columbus often asks employees to take official trips for city business, and this trip to the Federal Home Loan Bank workshop was just that," the mayor's statement reads. "The city had received a free grant to improve and modify homes in Columbus, and this meeting was a workshop for a new application.
"... As a department head, Chief Shelton agreed, and the officer drove us. We left one afternoon and returned the next evening; all on city business," Smith continues. "As the chief executive officer of the city, I have the authority to decide who goes on official city trips and this trip falls under that authority."
Shelton, when contacted by The Dispatch Friday, declined to comment on Adams' overtime.
Adams has been asked to perform other special tasks as part of his official duties, as well.
Shelton previously confirmed to The Dispatch he asked Adams in the early morning hours of March 9 to go to Starkville in an unmarked police unit and pick up part-time patrol officer Louis Alexander, who Starkville police had stopped for driving drunk.
SPD officers did not ticket Alexander for DUI, though the city council later suspended him for 30 calendar days (16 working days) for conduct unbecoming.
Five councilmen -- Ward 2's Joseph Mickens, Ward 3's Charlie Box, Ward 4's Fred Jackson, Ward 5's Stephen Jones and Ward 6's Bill Gavin -- said Friday they had been unaware of Adams' overtime and his travel with the mayor.
Mickens, for his part, expressed some frustration when presented with the information, especially the fact the council had not expressly consented to Adams going to New Orleans.
"I have some concerns about that," he said. "I mean, Robert and George can both drive. Why did they need (Adams)?"
Gavin, however, expressed little concern about Adams' overtime or travel.
"We've always had a lot of overtime in CID, so this is not the first time," Gavin said. "And I know the mayor has taken other employees as drivers on trips in the past, especially when it's in a bigger city."
The Dispatch could not reach Ward 1 Councilman Gene Taylor by press time.
Zack Plair is the managing editor for The Dispatch.