A few weeks ago, a local blogger posted that Tim Matthews was suspended for claiming overtime for which he was not entitled to the tune of over $300,000.00, a claim which if true is absolutely staggering.
Thereafter, Matthews was charged with stealing $9,000.00 from an evidence safe, a serious charge, but nothing in the area of six figures. Still, the report from the State Comptroller was pending and surely this would provide the other $291,000.00, right? Wrong.
According to today's press conference, the audit found 57 hours of overtime which Matthews is alleged to have unjustly received. If you use the top possible hourly wage ($52.00 an hour), this amounts to $2,964.00 in total. In reality, it is likely less than this, but still in the ballpark.
Therefore, the total amount alleged against Matthews is approximately $11,064.00, which is a hefty sum, but nowhere near the $300,000.00 claimed by the blogger.
Here's another wrinkle to consider. Whenever, a police officer or fireman gets overtime, their contract sets a minimum of four (4) hours. So, if an officer or fireman actually spends 15 minutes of overtime, he or she gets paid for four hours of overtime even if they were working somewhere else for 3:45 of the four hours. This odd and truly bizarre contractual provision could lower the amount even further and might even eliminate the entire 57 hours alleged by the Comptroller.
The charge of stealing $9,000.00 remains and is a a serious matter. (Anything over $1,000.00 is a felony). Yet, the allegations reported on the blogs of theft in excess of over $300,000.00 are clearly untrue. Holly Carnright is right to investigate and prosecute this matter. Allegations of theft by a police officer of $9,000.00 are very serious. Please note that D.A. Carnright has never speculated or guessed at numbers. He has been a complete professional in his handling of the matter. He has waited for the facts before taking action, as any good prosecutor should.
The thing that bothers me is that people all over town have been throwing the $300,000.00 number around. Yet, it appears to be untrue. The only source I have found for the $300K number is the blog. This is why bloggers, though not journalists, must exercise restraint before printing pure rumors. The facts need to be determined. It was perfectly okay to report that Matthews was placed on administrative leave pending an audit. There was an e-mail out there confirming that. The bad judgment was printing the unconfirmed rumor regarding the dollar amount.
Being involved in politics as long as I have, I have heard my share of rumors. I must confess that I sometimes actually enjoy sharing some of the rumors with my friends and fellow politicos, if only to just compare notes. This is perhaps a negative character trait of mine. Nevertheless, certain rumors or stories are not to be printed or shared without confirmation, especially when they involve potential criminal liability or have serious ramifications upon innocent parties.
I have two additional things to add. First, I want to be clear that I do not think that the blogger in question acted with malice. In other words, I do not think he was trying to make things worse for Detective Matthews. Rather, I think he jumped the gun on the story and should have waited for more detailed information. He just wanted to report it first.
Second, there are other aspects of this investigation continuing to swirl. When all is said and done, the amount will be substantially higher than $11,000.00, but not $300,000.00 or anywhere near that amount.