Loose Lips

Should D.C. Try to Get Double Dipping Money Back?

In this week's column, LL reports that more than two dozen retired police officers had been improperly receiving a full salary and a pension until very recently. One thing LL didn't have much space to discuss was the city's plans, or lack thereof, to try and recoup what's likely millions of misspent District tax dollars.

"While I would have preferred to seek repayment, our counsel informed us that our legal case was not strong," Mayor Vince Gray told LL in a statement.

Indeed, Charles Tucker, general counsel for the D.C. Department of Human Resources, says he's not seeking reimbursements from the overpaid employees because he doesn't know what they were told when they were rehired. Some, like D.C. Protective Services Chief Lou Cannon, have said District officials told them double dipping was okay. That possibility, Tucker says, makes it impossible for the city to try and recoup what it overpaid to the rehired cops.

But that's an awkward position for Tucker to take. Tucker also says that none of the rehired cops have been able to name the officials who allegedly told them double dipping was kosher. “Anytime I press someone, no one was able to say who," says Tucker. (Cannon says he's provided names.)

Tucker also notes that the District makes it pretty clear that retired cops who return to city employment are going to have a pension offset in their salaries. Indeed, it took LL about three minutes poking around on the D.C. Retirement Board's website to find a booklet explaining the law: "If you begin working for the D.C. Government while receiving a retirement benefit that started after November 17, 1979, your D.C. Government salary will be reduced," it says. That kind of clarity, it seems to LL, would argue in favor of the city trying to recoup the money.

There's also recent precedent for the city recovering an improperly paid salary. The Examiner reported last year that Assistant Police Chief Alfred Durham was improperly receiving a 10 percent longevity bonus. Durham agreed to reimburse the city. "If I'm not entitled to it, I'll pay it back," he said.

Of course, the Examiner followed up a few months later to find that, surprise, Police Chief Cathy Lanier had given Durham a pay raise that covered what he was paying back. Lanier followed the same playbook with three of her subordinates who were improperly double dipping. She got them huge raises, including a $28,000 bump for one employee whose only rejoined the department in March.

LL wondered what Councilmembers Mary Cheh and David Catania, both of whom were critical of the mayor's disasterous early hiring and pay practices, thought of these new developments. Both said they'd like to hear more from the mayor as to why the city isn't trying to recoup its money and whether Lanier's raises were justified.

"This has the appearance of favoritism," says Cheh. Indeed.

  • Sweetness

    Honorable Councilmember Cheh, please look into this extreme wasting of taxpayers money! Thank you.

  • NE John

    Why, yes!

  • DCLee

    Liars and thieves all of them, they should be foreced to repay the money, and the pay reises should be rescinded. Alan when Chief Lanier returns from her vacation ask her what she does to patrol officer who receive overpayment from the Department,does she forgives the debt? Does she advance that officer to the next step in his or her grade to cover what will be reovered like she did for her high ranking cronies. The answer is no, she does not.

  • Typical DC BS

    They should pursue getting the money back from these officers with all means at their disposal. NOBODY in the private sector would buy the "somebody told me it was OK" argument without getting NAMES, DATES and LOCATIONS of when they were told they could double-dip.

    Make these twerps come up with NAMES if they don't want to pay the money back. I would bet big money they can't.

  • Norah

    The law was changed so that retired employees could come back into the DC government and keep all of their pension and receive a full salary. I don't have the particulars in front of me, but it well known. The law was changed when the Fenty Administration came on board and, we believe, was made retroactive back to 2004. Maybe you (Loose Lips) should look into this. If one was let go, however, an employee cannot get their full salary. An employee would have had to leave voluntarily without being terminated and without receiving a buyout.

  • TWR

    @Nora.... Perhaps you should find all the "particulars" before putting yourself out there with your name spreading false info. The law was NOT changed. What you are referring to is a change made for retired police officers in good standing, with expert knowledge in a particular feild. Such as being training officers in cars, school and such. NOT to come back as commanders at triple the pay they recieved prior to retiring. They were abusing it, got caught, and now are trying to find a way NOT to pay the piper. Meanwhile, actual MPD rank and file officers are well into their 7th year with no pay raise because Lanier says she simply "can't afford it". This bull is getting old real fast.