ELIZABETH — A no-show job scandal that allowed city police to garner wages from the federally-funded Elizabeth Housing Authority without actually working their assigned shifts is ending with just two cops pleading guilty to third-degree theft charges.
According to published reports, officers involved in the scheme signed up for extra duty overtime hours at one of four senior housing complexes but showed up late, stayed only a brief portion of the assigned 8-eight hour shift or never appeared for duty.
Police Chief Patrick Shannon in a Jan. 24 memo identified 21 police officers and detectives who were to be denied provisional work permits pending by the Union County Prosecutor’s Office investigation.
The permits are required for police working extra overtime hours outside the department on assignments such as the housing security details.
Christopher Flatley and Michael Tropeano each pleaded guilty for a single charge of third-degree theft under a plea-agreement reached with the Union County Prosecutor’s Office. The other officers are to be subjected only to departmental discipline.
Complaints against the two officers were signed a day earlier, following the conclusion of a six-month investigation by the Union County Prosecutor’s Office Special Prosecutions Unit. The matter was referred to the unit by the Elizabeth Police Department in September 2013.
In exchange for their pleas, Union County Assistant Prosecutor Ann Luvera said Flatley, 24-year veteran of the police department, will repay $2,235, money he received for hours he did not work, and Tropeano, a 15-year officer, will repay $1,260.
Luvera said the defendants agreed to resign and never hold a public job again, and each of them is expected to be sentenced to a minimum of one year of probation when they appear before state Superior Court Judge Robert Mega on March 7.
Tropeano’s attorney, Robert Stahl, said his client was singled out while dozens of other officers accused of the same conduct were disciplined by Police Director James Cosgrove.
Park’s press release stated, “Contrary to media reports that upwards of 20 or 30 officers were engaged in alleged wrongdoing of a similar nature, the investigation did not reveal evidence of other instances of criminal conduct. All other outstanding issues regarding the work details have been referred back to the Elizabeth Police Department for its own review.”
“Violations of the public trust are matters we take extremely seriously, and for good reason – the public needs to know that those performing work on their behalf are doing so in a responsible and ethical manner,” Park said. “This office is committed to rooting out every form of such criminal conduct.”
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