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Lockport police overtime report could lead to criminal probe

An outside auditing firm's report on overtime claims by Lockport police officers may lead to a criminal investigation by the Niagara County District Attorney's Office, officials said Friday.

One particular officer could be the target of the investigation, city Finance Director Scott A. Schrader said.

He would not identify the officer, whether the officer remains on the police force or reveal the alleged misdeeds.

"I can't tell you that. We would impede the investigation," Schrader said.

"It was a general inspection or audit, a random sample," Schrader said. "The random sample raised an irregularity on an individual, and that irregularity is being investigated further."

The report by the Bonadio Group, an Amherst auditing firm, won't be made public until after the probe is completed, Schrader said.

"Something came up that appears to be suspect," he said. "We want to make sure it's cleared before we do anything with (the report)."

Interim Police Chief Steven C. Preisch, who took over in June, said he received Bonadio's 12-page draft Monday. He said the firm sampled overtime claims.

"There's some concern in it. I won't lie to you," Preisch said.

"I can't tell you there's something criminal because I don't have enough information," Preisch said. "I would say it's too early to tell. Until this Bonadio Group can provide me with the information it used to put this report together, it's premature to say."

Preisch said the police union contract guarantees four hours of overtime pay for every claim, no matter how long the work actually took.

He said it's possible that an officer could make multiple claims in a day. For instance, an officer might make a court appearance the same day as incurring overtime on a crime call. With the four-hour minimum payment, it could incorrectly seem that an officer is working impossibly long hours.

District Attorney Caroline A. Wojtaszek said there already has been a conversation between Preisch and Second Assistant DA Mary Jean Bowman.

"We asked that he confer with the mayor and they send us a formal request to look into it and we would open a special investigation file," Wojtaszek said.

"I think it's ultimately the mayor's decision," Mayor David R. Wohleben said Saturday. "I want to see what the police chief comes up with."

"When there's an answer, I plan on being very open and transparent," Preisch said.

He added, "If it's one or two bad apples, it needs to be addressed, because there's too many good people (in the department)."

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