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Allegations of wage fraud against Valley City police officer unfounded, report finds

VALLEY CITY, N.D. -- Allegations that a Valley City police officer illegally drew wages from multiple agencies while on duty are unfounded, Valley City Police Chief Fred Thompson said Wednesday, June 29.

VALLEY CITY, N.D. - Allegations that a Valley City police officer illegally drew wages from multiple agencies while on duty are unfounded, Valley City Police Chief Fred Thompson said Wednesday, June 29.

Thompson said an investigation into the pay and work schedules of Lt. David Swenson found no indication that he was drawing hourly wages from three separate revenue streams for the same hours, as claimed by Valley City resident Bob Drake.

Drake, a local restaurant owner, had estimated that Swenson had worked nearly 4,200 hours in a year, which Drake alleged was not possible without billing more than one entity for the same hours worked.

"It's just a bunch of crap. It's not humanly possible to work 4,200 hours without overlapping hours," he said.

"The average person works about 1,820. What he's doing is he's getting paid from the taxpayer, then he gets paid from the state of North Dakota for Click It or Ticket," and then from the county, Drake said. "He only works eight to 10 hours a day. There's not enough hours in a day for him to do all that stuff without triple dipping."

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Drake had also requested that the Barnes County Sheriff's Office investigate Swenson. The allegations were turned over to the Barnes County State's Attorney's Office, and then to the Community Service Board, which found no instances of double-billing, State's Attorney Carl Martineck said.

"The state's attorney cleared him and I could find no instance where he was paid by two different or even three different revenue streams at the same time," Thompson said.

For his part, Drake said results of the investigations just confirm that officials in Valley City can't be trusted.

"They're liars. They're absolutely 100 percent lying. And they're doing it to cover up their own incompetence," Drake said.

According to a 61-page internal affairs administrative report obtained by The Forum, Swenson was found to have logged 4,254.25 hours during calendar year 2015.

If a person worked 24 hours a day for 365 days, they would log up to 8,760 hours in a year.

For the Valley City Police Department, Swenson logged 2,106.50 hours of regular time, 355.75 hours of overtime and 281 hours of grand overtime, for a total of 2,743.25 hours. Swenson was also paid for 329 hours of earned vacation time, reducing the regular time hours to 1,777.5 hours physically worked.

Swenson also worked 1,519 hours for Barnes County as the director of the Community Service Program.

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In the report, Thompson said a spreadsheet analysis found that Swenson's hours worked for the two entities did not overlap, but that there were more than 20 instances where payroll records indicated Swenson had been paid 20 or more hours in a given day.

Only five of those days were actually 20-plus hour days on the job, with the rest of the hours on other days accounted for with vacation time used, the report stated.

Thompson said Drake also claimed in media interviews that Swenson had received $127,000 in pay between the city and Barnes County. Gross payments, which include health insurance, 401(k) and other legally tax exempt payments, added up to $114,949.78 in fiscal 2015, the report found.

Thompson's investigation found no wrongdoing on Swenson's part, but said there are two policy failures the city should address: first, that there is no policy to restrict the number of hours an employee can work in a day or a week; and second, that there needs to be a restriction on the number of hours worked by a police officer during a day or week when they have a second job.

Drake filed a complaint with the Police Department in early May and originally agreed to meet with Thompson as part of an investigation.

Thompson said he then started an internal investigation. Thompson obtained payroll records, and interviewed Swenson and eight other witnesses.

Drake then became uncooperative, Thompson said, refusing to talk with him and saying at one point he would continue this "in the court of public opinion."

Drake is not swayed by results of the investigation.

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"It's one big lie. It's not a misunderstanding. It's one big lie," he said. "The thing in Valley City, there's nothing in the town that's on the straight and narrow."

Related Topics: POLICECRIME
Helmut Schmidt is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead's business news team. Readers can reach him by email at hschmidt@forumcomm.com, or by calling (701) 241-5583.
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