Forged sick slips investigated

Maumee officer retired abruptly, Blade finds

3/17/2014
BY TAYLOR DUNGJEN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A Maumee police officer who retired at the onset of an internal investigation is believed to have forged a doctor’s signature and rubber stamp on at least four sick notes, according to records obtained by The Blade.

Richard Gabel, 51, retired from the department Dec. 12 after 27 years of service; he also retired from the city’s volunteer fire department where he was a lieutenant. He worked for the fire department for 19 years.

Although a criminal investigation by the Lucas County Sheriff’s Office, at the request of Maumee Chief James MacDonald, was launched, an agreement between the city and Mr. Gabel stated no criminal charges would be filed and the investigation would be terminated.

“It just happened so quick,” said Chief MacDonald. “It went down so rapidly. He left and that was the end of it.”

Mr. Gabel declined to comment.

DOCTOR'S SLIP COPIES: Believed to be genuine | Believed to be forged

The potential abuse of sick time was apparently first put in writing on Aug. 29 when Sgt. Dave Tullis sent a lengthy email with detailed instances of Mr. Gabel’s time off to high-ranking department officials, including then-Chief Robert Zink and Lieutenants MacDonald and Jeff Siebenaler.

That email shows a requested 16 days of sick leave in 2012 and 2013. In 13 of those instances, the sick days were taken either immediately before or after regularly scheduled days off. The sergeant noted that nine times, because of the call-off, there were not enough officers to staff necessary posts and officers had to work on overtime.

A request of public records, including emails and personnel files, did not show any action taken after that August email until after Chief MacDonald was promoted at the end of October.

“I had just become chief. That’s when I found out,” Chief MacDonald said. “ … There was a transition where the other chief wasn’t here, so I rose the subject and looked at it.”

On Nov. 6, Chief MacDonald found that Mr. Gabel, who worked as a patrolman, used an old version of the employee sick-leave form.

The same day, Chief MacDonald asked Lieutenant Siebenaler to begin an internal investigation.

On Nov. 21, the lieutenant met with Dr. Mohammad El Sayyad, and employees at the office, to review eight sick notes provided to the police department from Mr. Gabel.

Of those eight, the doctor said four of the signatures were forged. A rubber stamp with the doctor’s information did not match the official stamp.

The doctor’s office also looked for documented visits from Mr. Gabel in its computer system but, on the occasions with apparently forged slips, there were no logged appointments.

The forged sick notes were for 40 hours of time off.

It was not clear where the illegitimate stamp came from.

On Dec. 4, Chief MacDonald sent an email to Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp asking for assistance in pursuing criminal charges against Mr. Gabel. The next day, the chief emailed the sheriff again, returning a voice message, and said he would like to move forward with a criminal investigation.

A letter dated Dec. 6 and addressed to Mr. Gabel stated he would be required to attend an internal investigation Dec. 12 to discuss “suspected falsified sick leave forms.”

On Dec. 9, an agreement for a “confidential settlement” was reached, and Mr. Gabel would provide a retirement letter effective Dec. 12.

That is also about the time the criminal investigation was terminated.

“It was sick slips, so it was an internal matter,” said Chief MacDonald. “He wasn’t forging prescriptions of anything — it was sick slips.”

Mr. Gabel was eligible for his city pension and did not lose any retirement benefits as a result of the internal investigation, Chief MacDonald said.

Contact Taylor Dungjen at tdungjen@theblade.com, or 419-724-6054, or on Twitter @taylordungjen.