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Monday, November 24, 2014
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Published: Wednesday, 9/3/2014 - Updated: 2 months ago

Council handed $396,000 bill

Mayor asks city to repay police grant from Justice Department

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Mistakes in filling out a 2009 application for a federal police grant are going to cost taxpayers $396,000 this year, but the bill could have been a lot worse.

The Collins administration has asked Toledo City Council for authorization to pay back the government following a negative audit by the U.S. Department of Justice’s inspector general in December, 2013.

Mayor D. Michael Collins portrayed the problem as an error in applying for a grant, but said he wasn’t planning on seeking disciplinary action against those unnamed employees.

“There’s been administrative changes and retirements,” Mr. Collins said. “When the administration applied, they used monies for accounting purposes that were not in the grant.”

Mr. Collins said the error was made in the application for $7.1 million from the U.S. Department of Justice’s COPS Hiring Program grant to hire 31 officers. Those officers were among 75 who had been laid off by Mayor Carty Finkbeiner when the city was reeling fiscally from the devastating recession that started the previous year.

The mistake was in seeking reimbursement for the costs of police officer sick leave and vacation leave as if they were in addition to police officers’ base salary, which they are not.

The finding was included in an audit by the U.S. Department of Justice’s inspector general.

Mr. Collins said the money to repay the feds would come out of the city’s risk management fund. And he said the fund would be replenished with three equal installments of $133,000 from the police department’s next three annual budgets.

While Mayor Collins portrayed the issue as a mistake by unidentified administrators, police Lt. Rich Hoover blamed the snafu on an unclear federal government application document that he said confused other cities as well.

The federal inspector general initially found the city liable for about $2.9 million because the city violated the terms of the $7.1 million federal grant. A condition of getting the money was that Toledo had to maintain at least 495 patrolmen, something the city was unable to do because of retirements and insufficient budget.

“We actually were responsible for both errors because we did not maintain the number of patrolmen,” Mr. Collins said. “We were spared $2.5 million of what we would have to pay.”

Mr. Hoover said the city stayed in constant contact with the Justice Department to show that it was trying to fill the ranks of officers to comply with the grant and that it was not intentionally taking advantage of the grant to replace funding it would have been responsible for.

Contact Tom Troy: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419--724-6058 or an Twitter @TomFTroy.



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