Under fire: State Police headquarters in Framingham., Mass
Amid numerous ongoing investigations into overtime and payroll fraud, the Massachusetts State Police Department has tried several times in recent months to destroy more than a hundred boxes of payroll, attendance, and personnel documents that span decades, records show.
The current probe kicked off in March when state police commander, Col. Kerry Gilpin announced that more than 20 State Troopers, including one who is retired, were being investigated for allegedly receiving payment for shifts they may not have worked, which could criminal charges if warranted.
That announcement came in the wake of a Boston Globe review of payroll data showing that 245 Massachusetts state troopers made more than $200,000 in 2017.
Many of them supplemented their regular salary by taking on long overtime shifts or taking on multiple details directing traffic or providing security at special events, which is not uncommon in many police departments.
According to the Globe report, four troopers collected more than $300,000, including three who took buyouts when they retired amid controversy.
The median pay for a state trooper was $145,413.
In the course of the investigations, the department asked a state document retention board three times this year for its approval to destroy the files, including once in March, just days after it was revealed that payroll records for an entire 140-trooper unit had been kept hidden for years.
in a strange twist the Records Conservation Board tabled each State Police request, citing the records’ potential involvement in ongoing investigations, according to documents provided by the board. Each State Police request sought the destruction of the only existing copies of the records in question.
Massachusetts State Police spokesman David Procopio said in a statement Wednesday that “none of the records in question have been destroyed.”
“The recent requests made to the board are in compliance with the [Secretary of State’s] retention schedule and the records, due to their age, are not currently the subject of any outside investigation or audit,” Procopio added.
According to Procopio, payroll records will be retained “until further notice.”
The request to destroy the records was first reported by CommonWealth Magazine on Tuesday.
The department is under widespread scrutiny amid the several scandals. Federal and state prosecutors have charged eight current and former troopers in the ongoing overtime fraud scandal, using department records.
Governor Charlie Baker has described the overtime fraud scandal as a “conspiracy” that “goes back a long time”.
In the midst of department’s own review into 2016 and 2015 payroll records, gov Baker promised “if we find some of the violations there, we’ll look back into 2014…. We’re going to continue to go back into previous years and review those records.”
His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“if we find some of the violations there, we’ll look back into 2014…. We’re going to continue to go back into previous years and review those records.” -Mass governor Charlie Baker
State agencies are forbidden to destroy records without the approval of the six-member Records Conservation Board. State law requires agencies to keep records for a certain amount of time, which varies depending on the type of record. After the required retention period has passed, agencies can seek permission from the board.
The three forms submitted by State Police were signed by department officials — including its directors of finance and human resources — and each attested that the records in question were not subject to any “pending or actual audit or investigation.”
In denying the State Police three requests, the six-member Records Conversation Board cited pending investigations as the basis for keeping the files, documents show.
The timing of the State Police requests raises questions.
In March, Colonel Kerry Gilpin held a press conference accusing 20 troopers of fraudulently collecting overtime pay.
Days later, a Globe report revealed payroll records for an entire 140-trooper State Police division, including some of the department’s top earners — had been hidden for years, prompting sharp criticism and a vow from the notoriously secretive law enforcement agency to be more transparent.
Two days after the Globe report, the agency quietly filed the first of its requests to destroy documents.
The request sought permission to dispose of 115 banker boxes of time and attendance records covering 2010 and 2011, along with “bank and cash” and “billings and collections” records from 2009 through 2013, plus “routine accounting” records for 2001 through 2013.
Mass. Attorney General Maura Healey. Her office has filed charges against three troopers, and has said to expect more, in the overtime fraud case.
In April, State Police filed a separate request to destroy 40 more banker boxes of records, a varied mix of personnel, payroll, and retiree records spanning numerous years, including time and attendance calendars from July 1994 through 2014.
The department’s ongoing internal audit into overtime fraud began with a review of payroll records from 2016. It finished that portion of its review over the summer and had moved on to reviewing 2015 records.
The third and most recent request to destroy 12 more boxes of records was filed last month. Those boxes contained payroll records from 2009 through 2012, including detail and roster assignments, for Troop F.
Troop F, which is funded by the Massachusetts Port Authority to patrol its properties including Logan International Airport in Boston and the city’s Seaport, came under fire in late March for hiding trooper pay records for years.
In 2017, State Police sought to destroy records just once. The board approved that request to dispose of state crime lab documents, but noted it did not involve any records tied to the lab’s scandals in recent years.
The Records Conservation Board is chaired by a designee of Attorney General Maura Healey’s office, which has filed charges against three troopers, and has said to expect more, in the overtime fraud case.