Police lieutenants paid for hundreds of hours of work when they weren't there

Lauderhill taxpayers get stuck with the bill

By Bob Norman - Investigative Reporter

LAUDERHILL, Fla. - The City of Lauderhill, with one of the highest crime rates in South Florida, was in recent years named the eighth most dangerous city in America.

It’s one reason the rank and file officers need all the help they can get, but unfortunately, when it comes to some of the upper brass, that hasn’t been happening.

"You would come to work in the morning, the lieutenant couldn’t be found," said one retired officer who spoke about the department’s problem with AWOL higher-ups on condition of anonymity. "It’'s a lot of dollars being spent for salaries for people not being at work." 

The problem also allegedly extends to the detectives’ division, but two lieutenants in particular were notorious for not showing up, said sources: Gregory Solowsky and Michael Butkus, who both were making in excess of $120,000 a year. The sources said the department looked the other way until a pair of anonymous complaints sparked recent internal investigations that blew the roof off of their habits of signing off for 40 hours a week when they were often working far less than that.

"I have nothing to say," Solowsky said adding that all inquiries were to be referred to the agency.

Investigators matched up the work hours that Solowsky claimed for a six-month period against the GPS records on his vehicle they found a discrepancy of 272 hours -- nearly seven full weeks -- where he simply wasn't there.

On some of those so-called "work" days Solowsky's vehicle never even left his driveway, according to GPS records. The lieutenant claimed that even though he signed off for 40 hours every week, he didn't have to work those hours because he was a salary employee and would be paid regardless.  

"I didn't have direction, so I would come in whenever," Solowsky said.  

The department sustained charges of dishonesty and untruthfulness and incompetence against him.  

Butkus, who couldn't be reached for comment, was accused of regularly leaving work early. Investigators found he failed to show up for at least 414 hours --. more than ten weeks. He claimed he was taking "flex time," but that wasn't part of any policy, and didn't answer questions about specific days

Investigators also found Butkus falsified records. The department recommended that he be suspended five days without pay and be ordered to reimburse the city for 414 hours of work, or roughly $24,000. Butkus resigned, and received a $134,000 pension payout, and about $2,400 more for unused vacation time. He never paid back a dime. 

Lauderhill City Manager Chuck Faranda admitted the city never got a dime back from Butkus and couldn't name any action made to try to get it, but claimed it wasn't a totally lost cause.

"Sometimes it takes months if not years to recoup the money," Faranda said. 

Butkus had to pay back only 59 hours of the 272 hours he allegedly cheated from the city -- or $3,400 .. and he's back in uniform. 

"I felt that what was recommended was appropriate," Faranda said. 

Faranda said part of the reason for the light punishment was there was no explicit policy that salaried employees had to work 40 hours. As a result of these cases that policy has now been put into place .

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