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Special Report: Progress report on El Paso Police Dept. after 17 officers indicted in grant scandal

The El Paso Police Department is trying to turn the page on a shameful chapter.

Last year 17 officers were indicted after they were accused of tampering with grant documents to get paid more in overtime.

The ABC-7 I-Team has obtained a progress report of the department since then and the City says things haven’t progressed the way it hoped, which has led to some major changes.

Deputy City Manager David Almonte says May’s follow-up review to the 2011 City audit didn’t bring good news.

“It’s not progressing the way we intended it to do,” Almonte said.

The police department had not been asking for reimbursements from granting agencies in a timely manner. Because of that, the City spent nearly $3 million that hasn’t been reimbursed by anticipated grants and that was a $166,000 increase from 2011.

“All of this money is paid out of the general fund and then as we get the reimbursements, we replenish the general fund,” Almonte said.

Almonte said at any point in time, the City money that is pending reimbursement from grants should not exceed $1 million.

“Money’s coming in, money’s coming out,” Almonte said.

The City says it made the police take over the grant reimbursement requests in 2012 but did not give the police department additional staff to do so.

“They were having to do that with some new personnel that had been hired. The learning curve created a problem,” Almonte said. “But at the same time, like I indicated, we were not progressing in a manner that I felt appropriate.Therefore we made some personnel changes,” Almonte said.

He says the police department wasn’t monitoring its grants effectively and wasn’t even providing monthly reports to the City on the status of each of their 38 grants, something other City departments routinely do.

“Administratively, the department since April 1 has taken great strides in getting corrective action,” Almonte said.

The City took big steps to fix the problem. It moved and replaced the police’s administrative manager – the highest civilian employee at the department.

It’s developing better grant training and has instituted a strict monthly reporting requirement.

And there’s a future goal of eliminating the officers from being involved in the administration of the grants.

Grants that pay for overtime, special operations and even some equipment – all things the department needs to protect and serve.

Almonte says the new administrative manager at the police department has managed to significantly decrease the amount of non- reimbursed grant money from nearly $3 million a couple months ago to $1.5 million.

He says they’re going to decrease that to $1 million by the time council starts budget hearings in August.

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