Checks and balances don't match up


April 26, 2006|By LAURA VOZZELLA

Help Wanted: Baltimore City police officer needed for overtime security work at Oriole Park.

Pay for 6 1/2 hours' work: $10,000.

An officer who recently took the overtime gig was rewarded with that whopping bonus in his city paycheck, says Paul Blair Jr., president of the city police union. Sadly for the officer, it was just a computer glitch.

Sadly for the rest of the force, there have been hundreds of other paycheck glitches since April 5, when a payroll system that has covered most of city government for the past year was expanded to the Police Department.

"We had people earning zero," Blair said. "The first week, one of the district commanders got a whole check for $10."

About 400 checks were fouled up April 5, Blair said. When the next payday rolled around two weeks later, the number was down to about 35.

"It's a new system, and when you have a new system, there's always problems and they're minor," said Edward Ambrose, chief of the department's administrative division. (He was understanding but not taking the fall, pointing out that the department is "just a client of the central payroll system.")

Officers who were shorted on their regular pay were "made whole the same day," Ambrose said. But those who were missing overtime pay were not. City officials promise that it'll all be straightened out by the next check, which comes May 3.

The guy who got the $10,000 windfall had to pay that back right away, Blair said. The city might have cut that check, Blair said, but there was no way it was going to slip by Peter Angelos, the O's owner who reimburses the city for security work at the park.

"I know the attorney," said Blair, "and trust me, he knows exactly how many officers work -- by the cent."

Love to, but the schedule's tight, you know

The three guys running for governor got invited to an Associated Press campaign forum, to be held Friday at an Annapolis hotel. How'd they respond?

Thanks anyway, said the incumbent, Gov. Robert Ehrlich.

You bet, said the underdog, Doug Duncan.

Yes, but ..., said the front-running challenger, Martin O'Malley.

The Duncan campaign complains that O'Malley got AP to rejigger the format so he wouldn't have to appear at the same time as Duncan. The O'Malley campaign said it simply asked for a narrower time slot than the 75 minutes originally specified because of the mayor's busy schedule.

The forum was not intended to be a debate -- each candidate is to make an opening statement, followed by a question-and-answer period, according to the AP's invitation. But Duncan was clearly looking for some quality time with his Democratic rival.

"Tom, please rest assured that Doug has no communicable diseases or any other impediment that would prevent him from appearing on the same stage as anyone else," Duncan spokeswoman Jody Couser said in an e-mail to AP's Tom Stuckey.

David Wilkison, AP's Mid-Atlantic bureau chief, said the forum -- to be held in conjunction with the Maryland-Delaware-DC Press Association's annual awards luncheon -- was not altered to suit O'Malley.

"No format was ever changed," Wilkison said. "Obviously it would've been great if we could get everybody together at one time. What was important to us was to get the candidates to talk and for the reporters there to ask questions."

O'Malley's campaign notes that the two will appear -- together --at the Maryland Disabilities forum May 19.

The bigger they are, the harder they fall

Baltimore City Councilman Jack Young claims to stand 5-foot-8. Maybe on the best hair day of his life. "Is that with heels?" asks Councilman Keiffer Mitchell. Not that it's in the interest of Mitchell, who at 6-foot-5 is easily the council's tallest member, to play down the stature of Young, who might be its shortest were it not for Agnes Welch. The other day, in an impromptu game of football in front of City Hall, Young tackled Mitchell. Tackled him and sprained Mitchell's shoulder.

"It was definitely unnecessary roughness," Mitchell says. "The police were out there, and I asked them to do a police report, and they said, `That's unreported.'"

Payback for Mitchell's "no" vote on Young's energy bill? Young had a simpler explanation.

"He went to parochial school. I went to public school," Young says. "So he ain't used to getting hit hard."

Connect the dots

Among the more unlikely professions to participate in Take Your Child to Work Day: NASCAR driver. Matt McCall, of the No. 90 CitiFinancial Ford, entertains his sponsor's employees and kids tomorrow at the company's Baltimore headquarters. No, he's not taking the kiddos for the ride of their lives. He'll speak about achieving goals and ignoring peer pressure. ... Could slots -- the promised solution to underfunded schools and the ailing racing industry -- make a comeback for the crisis du jour, with revenue used to offset soaring electric bills? Senate President Mike Miller is ready with the slogan: "Slots for watts."

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