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Prescott official: 'No doctored documents'

Prescott city officials denied allegations of time card fraud last week in the aftermath of three police department firings. File photo

Prescott city officials rebuked allegations of time-card discrepancies in the aftermath of three police department firings.

City Administrator Jayne Brand and Interim Police Chief Rob Funk last week denied time card falsification, reported by Hastings radio station KDWA. The station aired reports questioning the timesheets of three Prescott police officers.

The radio report comes in the wake of three other department employees — former officers Bryan Massman and Ryan Most, along with former administrative assistant Erin Most — being fired amid what city records described as months of insubordination and policy violations.

Last week, Brand pushed back against questions about the timecard discrepancies. She said hours calculated using dispatching logs as a sole reference point is not an accurate portrayal of actual hours worked.

She used the example of Prescott police Sgt. Mark Schultz, who logged two hours of work for Dec. 13, 2016, on a timesheet. There was indeed no record of him signing into dispatch that day because he spent those two hours working in the department's evidence room, Brand said.

She also discussed Prescott investigator Jesse Neeley, who, like Schultz, was named in the radio report. The report references hours Neeley recorded while he was on a June vacation. Brand said Neeley had worked out an agreement to work 80 hours per pay period and receive "comp time" for any excess hours he worked.

Funk called the agreement "a win-win" that kept overtime pay at bay and allowed Neeley to "flex" the extra hours to his personal use. Funk conceded the arrangement was a union contract violation, but that no one ever filed a grievance about it.

He and Brand described a thorough record-keeping process that includes a timesheet review by at least three city officials.

"There is absolutely no fraud," Brand said.

She pushed back against allegations from KDWA that, after releasing redacted timesheets following a data request, that a second release of the same, unredacted, forms involved falsification.

"There are no doctored documents at all," Brand said. She later added "With every decision we've made, we're confident we did the right thing."

The officials also addressed other questions raised by the radio station, the general manager of which is Massman's father, Dan Massman.

Those questions include the hiring of part-time officer Jason Hickok, a man who pleaded guilty in 2015 to disorderly conduct in a Barron County case. Several other charges in that case, including felony false imprisonment, were dismissed.

Funk said a "thorough background" check was completed on Hickok in advance of his July 2017 hiring. Hickok maintained his law enforcement license throughout, Funk said. Information gleaned about his background from his former employer "didn't preclude us from hiring him," the interim chief said.

Asked if hiring an officer formerly charged with a felony sends mixed messages to the public, Funk said "the public doesn't know his individual circumstances."

Hickok is undergoing field training with the department and "will be given every opportunity to succeed or fail," Funk said.

Meanwhile, he moves ahead in stabilizing a department that, in addition to seeing three employees fired, also saw the death of its chief just days before. The department is down three full-time employees, but Funk and Brand said it's close to filling the administrative assistant job.

Part-time officers have been "picking up the vacuum of work" on patrol, Funk said.

"Right now we're moving the department forward," he said. "I'm not going to change for the sake of change and I want to build accountability into the system."

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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