Henry K. Lee
A former Oakland police officer pleaded not guilty today to a charge of grand theft for allegedly getting paid for time that he didn’t work.
Wallace Hunter II, who was fired for alleged dishonesty and disobedience of department rules in November after 17 years with the department, entered a not-guilty plea in Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland.
Hunter bragged to colleagues of a scheme in which he would seek and get compensatory time off — usually Friday — but list the time as hours worked on his time card, police said. He usually worked the overnight shift.
The department paid Hunter $8,000 over several months from late 2005 to March 2006 for shifts he didn’t work, said police Lt. Mike Yoell, head of the property/theft section.
Hunter’s attorneys have said that he may have had a “misunderstanding” as to how to report the time but never intended to defraud the city.
“This case is complete nonsense,” said Harry Stern, an attorney for Hunter, said today. “Officer Hunter is being prosecuted in order to cover-up for a new computer payroll system that is a disaster. His alleged crime, if it even is one, is failing to keep track of his leave balance.”
At least two colleagues grew suspicious because Hunter routinely wouldn’t turn in his time cards to his superiors, claiming he or payroll would handle it, investigators said in court records.
Hunter would also turn his time cards over or cover them up with his hand so no one could see them, authorities said. But one officer sitting behind him snuck a peek and could tell that he wasn’t putting in for comp time on his time card, police said in court records.
Stern said the problem arose when officers switched to a new timecard system and had to “forecast” when they would work, as timecards were often due several days before their work week ended.
But the department said an officer showed everyone how to fill in their time cards and that Hunter was among those who attended.
Hunter’s arrest on June 13 came the same day he and his attorney were to have attended a hearing with an arbitrator on an appeal of his firing.
“It is no coincidence that these charges were filed — a year and a half after the investigation was concluded — literally in the middle of Officer Hunter’s administrative hearing when we were kicking the city’s tail,” Stern said. “This is an abusive of prosecutorial resources.”
The department withheld $8,000 worth of comp time from his last paycheck before firing Hunter for untruthfulness and disobeying rules and regulations, authorities said.