BOSTON (STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE) – The Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs is investigating a pattern WCVB-TV uncovered of environmental police officers spending portions of the work day at home and receiving overtime for patrolling parks and pools, Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday.
A five-month undercover investigation by 5 Investigates turned up footage of environmental police with their state vehicles at home for hours at a time during the workday. Other footage showed Sgt. Chris Folan as he towed a boat from Lakeville to Hingham and then spent a few hours “hanging around.”
“I’ve talked to the folks at Environmental Affairs that they need to look through some of the issues that were raised by the report and if there are issues associated with people behaving inappropriately and treating the taxpayers with less than the respect that they deserve, then we’ll take action on that,” Baker told reporters Monday.
The office, headed up by Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matt Beaton, a former Republican House member from Shrewsbury, has been dinged by scandals previously. Top officials in the Department of Conservation and Recreation were suspended last summer for using taxpayer resources on a private party and one of those officials later left the agency after allegedly using lights and sirens to bypass traffic.
Another top state environmental official resigned and the state moved to terminate a personnel officer following allegations by a program coordinator working for the environmental police that she faced political retribution on the job because her fiance is challenging Westfield Republican Sen. Don Humason.
Asked about environmental officers making overtime for patrolling parks and pools for the Department of Conservation and Recreation, Baker said, “That’s the stuff people are looking into.”
The governor said he is unbothered by one state agency providing security services to another state agency, noting State Police officers provide security for Department of Transportation projects. The Department of Conservation and Recreation has a ranger contingent that provides security within the State House and also patrols state parks.
Baker was quizzed about the issue by WCVB reporter Kathy Curran, whose story on Friday alleged that environmental police officers are allowed to split their shifts “to accommodate the lucrative details in the middle of their work days.”
“I would say that that depends on the circumstances and the facts of the case, which is why we’re investigating that, and if people have played fast and loose with the rules we’ll do something about it,” Baker said.
Col. James McGinn, director of the environmental police, told the news station that officers can work from home if they are writing reports or washing their cruisers.
Here is a look at the most recent collective bargaining agreement with the state. On page 12, Article 7-Workweek and Work Schedules-7.1 B, at the bottom of the page it states:
The weekly work schedule of Environmental Police Officers shall set out the starting time for each tour of duty and such starting time may be subject to not more than one (1) change per four (4) day tour of duty, unless mutually agreed otherwise by the Director and the employee.
Environmental Police Officers may, voluntarily, subject to the approval of the Director, work a split work shift, not to exceed eight (8) hours and thirty (30) minutes in the aggregate, including a paid meal period, in a twenty-four (24) hour period. “Environmental Police Officers” shall include Supervisors.