Loose Lips

Disaster Pay

File this one under “nice work if you can get it.”

More than two dozen retired police officers who were rehired by the District, including the chief of the police agency that protects government buildings, have been improperly paid both a full pension and full salary for several years even though the D.C. Code prohibits that, according to city documents and interviews with officials.

And just before city officials started docking their salaries in order to end the overpayments, Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier helped get three of those double dipping officers giant raises—$47,000 in one case, Lanier’s emails and city records show.

Individual pensions don’t have to be disclosed to the public, so it’s impossible to figure the exact amount of money the District overpaid. But estimates based on pension formulas (which are sometimes as high as 80 percent of a cop’s final salary, plus yearly cost of living increases) indicate that the total cost is likely in the millions; the average pension payment to retired cops and firefighters is about $57,000 a year, but officers who retired at high ranks after decades of service can make more. City records show the vast majority of the double dipping started under former Mayor Adrian Fenty’s administration, but one case dates to at least 2005. District officials say they have no intention of trying to recoup any of the money.

But this isn’t a story of cops trying to milk the system, say some of the double-dipping officers. They say a dysfunctional city government made promises it can’t keep, and is now unfairly slashing their pay.

The city started looking into the situation this summer, when Department of Human Resources Director Shawn Stokes says the mayor’s office asked her what would happen if a police officer retired and was rehired by the city. Could they keep their pension and receive a full salary? The newly employed Stokes asked her staff to find out. The answer: no.

For retired cops, firefighters, and teachers who return to the city workforce, city law requires that their salaries be offset by their pensions. There are exceptions for retirees who return to work as temporary police officers or as public school security officers.

Stokes says she asked her staff to identify whether any retired, then rehired, employees were double dipping improperly. So far, her staff has identified 25 retired MPD officers who have come back to work for the city and drawn both a full salary and a full pension. Stokes says the city’s records don’t make it easy to identify double dippers: “It could be more.”

The task of finding the double-dipping retired cops fell to DCHR’s general counsel, Charles Tucker. He says some were acting like they’d been expecting to be caught, like a “person selling illegal fireworks.”

“None of the affected employees seemed shocked,” Tucker says.

DCHR sent out letters to the employees this fall telling them the gravy train would end on Nov. 20.

The list of retired cops who have been double dipping includes Lou Cannon, chief of the D.C. Protective Services Police Department, and several of his deputies.

Cannon says he and his staff have been given a raw deal. He says that he when he was recruited to his current position in 2008, he never tried to hide the fact that he was receiving a city pension. He says he asked city officials whether he could keep the pension and get his full salary, which is currently $110,000 a year. He says the same goes for several retired MPD cops who work for him, whose salaries range from $45,000 to $98,000.

“We asked. We were told we were okay,” Cannon says. “We’re not the bad guys in this.”

(Fun sidenote: President Barack Obama appointed Cannon last year to the Federal Salary Council, which advises the president on salary issues for federal employees.)

Cannon won’t say which city officials gave him the erroneous information, but says he provided the names to DCHR. Tucker says that’s not true: “Anytime I press someone, no one was able to say who.”

Cannon also declined to say how much his pension is, other than to say his recent pay cut has been “substantial.” He retired from MPD in 1995 after 22 years on the force. He says he has no plans to leave city government, and says he and his staff are exploring options to get the city to reverse its decision.

Emails obtained by Washington City Paper show Cannon’s staffers expected Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. to propose emergency legislation that would have delayed the Nov. 20 cutoff. A Wilson Building source confirmed that Thomas was considering the legislation. But Thomas, whose house was recently raided by federal agents, so far hasn’t proposed anything, apparently busy with other matters.

At MPD, though, Lanier didn’t wait for the council to help three of her double dipping employees: She got them huge raises days before the cutoff. Those raises may have helped offset the amount their salaries were cut by.

Commander Daniel Hickson, who oversees the MPD’s First District, saw his pay jump from $129,999 to $177,000. Lieutenant Jacob Major’s salary went from $100,000 to $136,050. And Bill Sarvis, a medical services manager who has only been on the job since March, had his salary go from $125,000 to $152,686. For Hickson and Major, their salaries now far eclipse what others of similar ranks are making. Hickson and Sarvis didn’t respond to LL’s attempts to contact them, and Major couldn’t be reached.

(Sarvis, by the way, was an assistant police chief in the ’90s. He won a $100,000 settlement with the city in 1999 after he was demoted to a captain. The city said he was demoted for buying stolen property from a corrupt ATF employee. Sarvis said he was punished for planning to reveal wrongdoing by then-Police Chief Larry Soulsby.)

Lanier is out of the country and did not respond to an email requesting comment. On Monday, Tucker told LL the raises weren’t related to the fact that the three were about to have their salaries slashed; rather, their job performance merited the pay bumps. On Tuesday, Stokes offered a different version of events. “The chief really wanted to keep these seasoned professionals in their positions,” Stokes says.

Emails obtained show Lanier and Stokes discussing “paperwork” related to the three MPD employees on Nov. 15 and 16, days before the Nov. 20 cutoff.

“I would like to get them an answer ASAP,” Lanier wrote on Nov. 16.

Told of the raises that Lanier arranged, Cannon says his department deserves the same treatment. “I think I’m a seasoned professional, and I haven’t gotten anything,” he says.

There are plenty of other city employees who may feel the same way. The perpetually cash-strapped D.C. government had a pay freeze until September. Last week, Mayor Vince Gray ordered a travel freeze and hiring freeze to help cope with “serious financial challenges.” The high salaries paid to some of Gray’s own appointees caused him big problems earlier in the year. Gray notes that his administration ended the double dipping, but says he’s “deferring” to Lanier on the pay raises.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery/graphic by Brooke Hatfield

Got a tip for LL? Send suggestions to lips@washingtoncitypaper.com.

  • Keith B.

    Well I've never seen a more clear cut example of racial bias in my life~~

  • DC Lee

    Either Chief Cannon is not telling the truth or he does not know the law; in the retirement booklet issued by the D.C. Retirement Board (DCRB)it clearly outlines the fact that under District law you cannot receive an annuity from the DCRB and at the same time hold a paid position with the District government. There are a two exceptions, the Senior Police Officer Program and the Detective Adviser Program. The details for both position are outlined clearly in District law and personnel regulations.

    I wonder how he is able to advise the President on salary issues when he appears not to know the law governing his own compensation. His claim about being given "erroneous information" speaks volumes about his qualification for that appointment.

    Shame on all of them, what a disservice to the citizens of the District.

  • RealDC

    Not surprised and I bet you that none of the double dippers live in DC.

  • NE John

    I thought could not hate cops more than I do, but this has pushed it up a notch! The scholar deadbeats known as the police are milking us clean. And RealDC, I fully agree!

  • The Truth

    Alan - If the DC Police Employee's salary is offset by their pension doesn't that mean that a significant portion of that salary is paid by the pension which they paid into for more than two decades and a portion is paid by the DC Govt? In other words, the DC Govt. is not actually paying that much in salary. Wouldn't we rather keep good employees? Or, do we want them to go work somewhere else???

    Hopefully, your article will force the DC Govt. to fire all of these veteran valued employees so the DC Govt. can continue its proud tradition of mediocrity. Great piece.

  • S.E.

    @The Truth.....that's how it's supposed to work.

    The code states in part: Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the salary of any annuitant who first becomes entitled to an annuity under this subchapter, after November 17, 1979, and who is subsequently employed by the government of the District of Columbia shall be reduced by such amount as is necessary to provide that the sum of such annuitant's annuity under this subchapter and compensation for such employment is equal to the salary otherwise payable for the position held by such annuitant. The provisions of this subsection shall not apply to an annuitant employed by the District of Columbia government under the Retired Police Officer Redeployment Amendment Act of 1992 or the Detective Adviser Act of 2004. The provisions of this subsection shall not apply to an annuitant employed by the D.C. Public Schools under the Retired Police Officer Public Schools Security Personnel Deployment Amendment Act of 1994.

  • danmac

    Stokes says she asked her staff to identify whether any retired, then rehired, employees were double dipping improperly. So far, her staff has identified 25 retired MPD officers who have come back to work for the city and drawn both a full salary and a full pension. Stokes says the city’s records don’t make it easy to identify double dippers: “It could be more.”
    What the hell does that mean? pension payments and salary payments have to be reported to the IRS electronically by social security number. The files are separate but can be matched by SSN to provide a list of potential double dippers.

  • Southeast Ken

    Nothing surprises me anymore.

  • Typical DC BS

    Good ole DC. Stupidity and failure to follow the rules continues from one administration to another.

    Wanna bet NO ONE is reprimanded or loses their job?

  • daheyell

    Keith B: How is this a clear cut example of racial bias?

  • Southeast Ken

    Keith B., why does everything have to be about race with you? The article didn't mention race, dam. Give it a rest, asshole.

  • http://yahoo Nuthingez

    Do not be fooled this a practice through out the District government. My agency has at least ten or soon employees with a combined income of at least 120,000.One rehire is making 105,000. He just retired in September. Some of thes rehires were MANDATORY retirements. Gotta love the DC DOC

  • daheyell

    S.E. Ken: Not only did the article not mention race, but one of the beneficiaries of this abuse, former MPD chief Lou Cannon, is white. Greed in DC is without bias and includes white and black. However, investigation, prosecution and persecution of recipients and enablers is an entirely different matter.

  • Jane

    "On Monday, Tucker told LL the raises weren’t related to the fact that the three were about to have their salaries slashed; rather, their job performance merited the pay bumps."

    You should've stuck to the first explanation. Who is going to believe this has anything to do with job performance? What kind of "job performance" do you have to do to get a $47,000 raise? Did you kill Osama bin Laden barehanded while saving orphans from Mexican drug cartels wielding cancer guns? Ridiculous.

  • GJ

    This has not been a secret. In all of these cases it was well known that the people were retired police officers. Because of the hiring and retention practices of the DC, there is a lack of experience. Chief Cannon was asked to come in and bring a piss poor city agency up to speed amd he has. Most of you don't even know who or what is DPS. So were Commander Hickson and Jacob Majors because they had qualifications. You have no problem when they pay some bean counter 200K + but let a cop earn an honest time and he's a crook. I can not wait to retire and I promise you I will never work for you bunch of ungrateful bastards again. Fuck you all very much.

  • GJ

    Lastly, then I will shut up. Cannon, Hickson, Sarvis, and a few other all had good jobs before they came back to DC. Did it ever occur to any of you that they came back because they care about DC? Probably not...

  • MPDBlue

    Cannon won’t say which city officials gave him the erroneous information, but says he provided the names to DCHR. Tucker says that’s not true: “Anytime I press someone, no one was able to say who.”

    Cannon is a pathological liar and he was called on this by DCHR. (see above from article)
    The C in his name stands for cronyism, corruption, and crooked. Cannon was suspended for months because of his actions at his current job and gets fired from other jobs and moves to destroy another agency. He was only a sergeant in MPD for God's sake and he should take his rump and no teeth back to Maryland and pick up beer cans on the side of the road. DC would be better off without him and his ilk and he certainly does not deserve to receive any additional compensation, unless it was unemployment benefits. Also, GJ..just shut up.

  • GJ

    MPDBlue are you one of the fired officer Cheif Cannon gave a second chance....

  • InItToWinIt

    Don't hate the player, hate the game.

  • MPDBlue

    MPDBlue are you one of the fired officer Cheif Cannon gave a second chance..

    GJ, you must be one of the "recycled" officers cannon hired because you spell as bad as he does and you can't seem to write a complete sentence without a mistake. The "security guards" cannon brought with him are as corrupt and incompetent as he is and knowing him from MPD and him being with the FOP, he is just a liar when he said that he checked about double dipping. Once a liar, always a liar. I hope the city does the right thing and flushes him down the toilet.

  • DC 4

    When it comes to dollars with this city, nothing ever adds up. Never ever!

  • GJ

    MPDBlue you got me on the spelling, sorry I type too fast when dealing with an asshole. What has Chief Cannon lied about? What has he done that is corrupt? If you have facts I'll listen. What is your beef with him anyway. You've posted about him in the past. You take a shot at him every chance you get. What's the real story?

  • fp

    All this happens while the rank and file has not received a pay raise in over 4 years. I understand why many people hate the police when they see these stories. Major is in Internal affairs taking money that is illegal while performing Administative duties. I think i would be safe to say Internal Affairs won't be investigating him. Sarvis has an Admin possition at the police Clinic. I guess they had extra money and could not find a secretary for $100,00.00 less. As far as Hickson goes I guess the Chief did not have any confidence in the people she promoted to high rank so she gave the job to a retired Lieutenant from the police department. Quick put up more photo radar camera in case we promote our janitor to Assistant Chief!

  • LT married to 2 women at the same time.

    GJ, You are a big Cannon supporter. I can respect loyalty Gj. However, I cant truly see how you stand behind Louis Cannon anricand call yourself a man. The most important aspect of law enforcement is "integrity". Which Chief cannon has none. Chief Cannon told me that life is all about the legacy that you leave when you die. GJ, you stated in your earlier comments to show you facts against Cannon. Are you blind? Cannon only disciplines black officers. It's a proven fact. Over five black officers have been suspended. Not to count the number that have been fired since his entrance in 2008. I think walking pass african-american officers and not speaking is totally disrespectful. Myself and several black officers have tried to speak to Chief Cannon and he ignored us as if he wasn't there.

  • MPDBlue

    gj, the internet is great because it allows a boy to pretend to be a man while hiding behind a computer screen. I know it is difficult to understand but I began my responses with the falsehoods, prevarications, and lies, that DCHR lawyer Tucker said about cannon. Maybe you should read the article again and this time put on your glasses.

    Cannon won’t say which city officials gave him the erroneous information, but says he provided the names to DCHR. Tucker says that’s not true: “Anytime I press someone, no one was able to say who.”

    There you are "again." He is called a liar by the attorney at DCHR. What part of that do you not understand? Now that I think of it, you probably are cannon. You also don't know cannon because at best he is a reprobate and at worst just an ignorant back wood hilly billy. My apologies to the hilly billies for the comparison.
    You may now pull up your pants and proceed to crawl back under the rock from whence you came.

  • GJ

    Lt why did those officers get fired? Was it because they could not qualify with a firearm? I do not condone racially motivated behavior by any race and working in DC you see alot of it. However, it's usally blacks being very open about their dislike for whites, asians, and hispanics. If Chief Cannon is engaged in that type of behavior he is wrong. I can only speak to my experiences with him and I never saw or heard that type of allegation until he took over DPS

  • GJ

    MPDBlue who is really hiding behind a computer screen? It's you like you probably hide behind race by making false accusations everytime thimgs do not go your way. I bet it's been your cruch and your war cry. I also really doubt your MPD. Most of the officers I know are decent and hardworking people. You appear to be niether. I guess I should take out a dictionary and use words that you fell make you appear intelligent. I also find it funny that you hurl insults like a child but I'm the boy. Got it. Keep using you race and your obvious intelligence to get you where your going. Your problem with Cannon is he has achived in his life with out using all the means you have a too. Good Luck, when you run out of race cards, you might get by wth your wordsmith.

  • MPDBlue

    gj, who said anything about race? Interesting banter from someone that fails to construct a sentence which coneys a coherent thought. Like you, a troll is simply a troll. Shouldn't you be studying for your high school finals? Get a tutor and a life. You are writing at an eighth grade level, so no wonder you can't follow or understand the conversation. Not once did you refute the claims of the CP that cannon lied. Anyway, be a big boy and head back to your studies. I've wasted enough time with you.

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