Hammond Police Review Board clears police chief of resident's allegations
Village of Hammond Police Chief Rick Coltrain was cleared of accusations of falsifying his time card during a four-hour hearing by the Hammond Police Review Board, Tuesday, March 31.
The complaint was brought by village resident Tony Endres who alleged Coltrain had made false statements on his time cards during a two-week span from Oct. 4-17.
The Police Review Board reached its decision after deliberating on the matter for two hours.
At the heart of Endres’ complaint was photographic evidence Coltrain’s police car parked in front of his house in Baldwin with three different examples during the period while the time cards said he was working. Endres also had a copy of Coltrain’s phone records, which showed him placing a phone call when he was in Siren, while the time cards said he was working.
Recusal The hearing started with a surprise as Review Board chair Erin McComb stated she was recusing herself from the hearing.
“My charge as Police Review Board chair is to ensure that the administrative and logistical work for this committee and any hearings are done correctly,” she said in a statement. “I am confident that I have honored my duties for this hearing and I am proud of how I conducted myself in the face of many challenges
“To ensure that this process is not undermined and to eliminate potential distraction, I am recusing myself from this proceeding. I did not make this decision lightly, it was difficult, but I do this to best serve the process, the village and my fellow Police Review Board members.”
If McComb didn’t announce her recusal, Coltrain’s attorney Andrew Nelson of Hudson, had a lengthy motion asking for it as it had texts and emails between McComb and Endres.
“There was significant communication, coaching and advising as well as work performed in the drafting of the complaint by Ms. McCombs (sic) that is currently set for review by this board,” Nelson wrote in his motion.
McComb announced on Friday she has resigned from the Police Board.
Testimony Endres was the first witness to take the stand and stated his case on why he filed the complaint.
“I started going to Village Board meetings and asking for public records,” Endres said under questioning from his attorney Erick Kaardal of Minneapolis. “Some of those records I acquired led me to file this complaint.”
Endres stated he believed the time cards for those two weeks “didn’t reflect what he worked.”
“He’s stealing money from the taxpayers,” when asked by Nelson of what Coltrain is guilty of. Endres also said the fact Coltrain is a salaried employee was irrelevant.
Nelson poked a hole in Endres’ claim when he asked him do you know what Coltrain was doing at the time he was home when the photographs were taken? When Endres said he couldn’t, Nelson replied, so all you know is the car was in the driveway. Endres then shot back with “you show me.” Nelson fired back with “it’s your burden to prove it.”
Sandy Brecht was the second person to testify. She said Endres came to her with concerns about Coltrain, so she needed to see for herself. She said she was the one who took the pictures. She saw a pattern over weeks of seeing his car in the driveway early in the morning and echoed Endres’ opinion as well.
Nelson, again asked do you know what Coltrain was doing while he was home? Brecht didn’t. Nelson also hammered on a theme since Coltrain was a salaried employee, he would receive the same salary no matter the number of hours he worked in a two-week span.
That question popped up again when Village Clerk/Administrator Sandi Hazer testified. Hazer said due to the nature of Coltrain’s work, she’s never verified his hours. She also said one of the main functions for her in looking at his time card to see whether he used vacation or sick hours.
Village President Tony Bibeau said he’s had no issue with Coltrain.
“I believe him to be honest when he’s filled out his time cards,” he said. Bibeau also added he’s known Coltrain to take phone calls at 3 a.m., so, is he supposed to put that on his time card?
Findings The Review Board found “there was no evidence presented that the police chief was not working” in regards to the time cards and photographs. As regards for the phone bill, the board also ruled not enough evidence was given to show he wasn’t working.
The board also said Endres’ request for Coltrain’s termination “doesn’t reasonably relate to the seriousness of the alleged violation and to the chief’s record of service with the Hammond Police Department.”
The Police Review Board did ask the Village Board to look into the matter of salaried employees being subject to the same time card rules as hourly employees. As stated in the Village Handbook, under the section of pay periods. “All employees must complete and sign time sheets. The department head or the Village Clerk/Administrator (if there is no department head) is to sign each employee’s time sheet to verify the accuracy of time worked.”