Louisiana Police Chief Criminally Charged for False Overtime Claims

Former Killian, Louisiana, Police Chief Dennis Hill has been indicted on felony malfeasance charges for allegedly requesting payments for overtime he never worked. The felony charge comes on the heels of an investigation conducted by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor into the former chief’s actions.

Despite numerous claims of alleged criminal conduct within the auditor’s report, the grand jury only indicted Hill for one count of felony malfeasance. This single count stems from several instances, over a two-year span, in which Hill sought overtime pay for a total of 35 hours that he allegedly did not work. Here are some of the details from the report.

The Auditor’s Report

The legislative auditor’s report contains several alleged improper actions by the former chief. First, the report claims Hill was paid for hours he did not work and that Hill utilized town credit cards and vehicles for personal activities. Second, the report cites possible improprieties in the way the police department managed funds from traffic citations and purchased equipment. Finally, the report claims the town paid Chief Hill “excess compensation” above his approved $18,000 annual salary possibly in violation of state law. The audit goes on to question whether a police chief is eligible to receive any overtime unless specifically authorized by local ordinance.

Here is an important excerpt from the auditor’s report:

Louisiana Attorney General Opinion 08-0161 states, in part, …absent an ordinance relative to overtime, a chief of police may not receive overtime compensation. This is because if the chief of police’s salary is incommensurate with his duties, the mayor and board of aldermen are authorized to increase his salary pursuant to La. R.S. 33:404.1…

While not diminishing the seriousness of the charges Hill is facing, some of the claims related to Hill’s salary and overtime eligibility within the report raise a couple of interesting questions and are worth a closer look.

  • Could state law forbid overtime payments to an employee even if the FLSA requires it? The answer is no. Remember state laws can provide greater benefits than the FLSA, but not less.
  • Next, Under the FLSA can a police or fire chief be classified as an overtime exempt executive if his or her total salary is only $18,000 per year? The answer is no. The FLSA requires overtime exempt executives receive a salary of at least $455 per week, or $23,660 annually.

Whether any employee, including police and fire chiefs can be properly classified as an overtime exempt executive requires a fact specific analysis. An individual’s job title alone will not determine if he or she is exempt from overtime under the FLSA. This is true, even if local ordinance or state law indicate otherwise.

Whether the former chief is entitled to overtime in unknown. Much more information would be required to even render a guess on that question. However, the auditor’s report provides a good example of how well-intentioned state laws may be in conflict with the FLSA depending on the facts. This highlights why it is important for city officials to have a working knowledge of how the FLSA can impact their organizations.

Here is more on the story.

Here is a copy of the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s report.

LA Legislative Auditor Report

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