June 09--MIDDLETON -- Two assistant superintendents and two correction officers at the Essex County Sheriff's Department have resigned, retired or been demoted after they were accused of improperly accessing criminal records or filing false time cards.
Assistant Superintendent Carrie Keating was the only one of the four to admit wrongdoing. Her demotion and the three departures end the investigations into the allegations, department spokesman Maurice Pratt said.
Keating was caught on camera leaving the Middleton Correction Facility before her shift ended, then using the department's electronic time-keeping system to clock out remotely. Keating's early departures added up to 11 hours over a one-month period, claiming a total of $439 for work she didn't do, Pratt said.
Keating was placed on paid leave April 30 and returned to work Wednesday as a reintegration coordinator, earning $67,650, a $15,323 pay cut. Reintegration coordinators prepare inmates for release. She was placed on a year's probation and will not be eligible for promotions, capping her career in the department after 19 years.
Senior Correction Officer Michael Howard also was put on paid leave April 30 after he was accused in a similar time-keeping scam. He retired from the $75,292-a-year position May 20 after 21 years as a correction officer.
The number of hours he allegedly falsely claimed was not available yesterday.
Assistant Superintendent Kimberly O'Hara was accused of directing Correction Officer Jason Steiner to do unauthorized searches of an online database that documents criminal histories. The database, called Criminal Offender Record Information, or CORI, is operated by the state Department of Criminal Justice Information Services. Much of the information it contains is restricted to law enforcement authorities, including police making traffic stops. Its use is highly regulated.
O'Hara, director of a program that classifies inmates to determine where they should be housed and what services they should receive, was put on paid leave May 4 and will remain on the payroll using personal time off until her retirement becomes effective June 30, Pratt said. She has worked for the department 22 years and earns $91,446.
O'Hara, the highest ranking of the four officers, serves on the executive board of the Correctional Association of Massachusetts, a professional association with 400 members. She won an award for mentoring from the Massachusetts Association of Women Police a week before she was placed on leave.
Steiner was placed on paid leave May 4 and will remain on the payroll using personal time off until his resignation becomes effective June 30. He earns $67,650.
Steiner also was disciplined by the Sheriff's Department in 2004, five years after joining the department, when he was suspended for filing false time cards. Details were not available, Pratt said.
None of the four officers could be reached for comment.
Cousins said he believes safeguards are in place to prevent similar abuses in the future. He said O'Hara, Howard and Steiner were not asked to resign or retire, but he said the outcome "is pretty clear."
"People made choices, unfortunately for some, bad choices," Cousins said. "We took action."
Cousins rejected a request for records of the internal affairs investigation involving the four officers.
The state Court of Appeals ruled in 2004 that most records of internal affairs investigations by law enforcement agencies should be public in order to promote "the core value of trust between citizens and police."
The Eagle-Tribune, sister paper of The Salem News, is appealing Cousins' denial to the state Supervisor of Records.
Copyright 2012 - The Salem News, Beverly, Mass.