Almost 50 sheriff’s deputies and supervisors working at the Cook County Criminal Court Building falsified their time sheets to get paid for time they were not working.
That’s according to Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, whose office spent months investigating time fraud committed by officers.
Cara Smith, the sheriff’s chief strategy officer, said on Friday that an audit of time sheets turned into an extensive investigation that involved monitoring hundreds of hours of video and other surveillance.
That investigation found that officers assigned to work weekends often arrived late and left their workplace for periods of time while still earning full pay.
In total, 27 deputies and eight supervisors are being suspended by the sheriff, some up to 60 days, the sheriff’s office said. Another 13 officers are facing termination, which has to go through the independent merit board before taking effect.
According to the sheriff’s office, those 13 workers accounted for more than 85 hours of fraudulent time without loss of pay.
“The taxpayers of Cook County pay our salaries, and we are accountable to them,” Smith said. “We are public servants, and when we have staff engaging in this kind of misconduct, it is extremely serious in our opinion, as is evidenced by the number of terminations we’ll be seeking.”
Smith said it was especially troubling that 10 supervisors were involved in the time fraud scheme.
The sheriff’s office said it has increased supervision and time audits to prevent this problem from happening again.
Sheriff’s officers at the court building are represented by the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police.
A spokeswoman for the Illinois FOP said the union is considering fighting the disciplinary actions.
“Several employees were interviewed regarding the allegations of tardiness, and literally, as I write this email, the discipline is still being handed down,” said Illinois FOP spokeswoman Tamara Cummings in an email. “We have to review any discipline imposed on a case-by-case basis. Once we complete our review, we are prepared to fight vigorously, in any case, if we believe discipline is unwarranted or excessive.”