City inspector general: CPD botching tuition reimbursement program
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org December 18, 2012 10:56AM
Updated: January 20, 2013 6:18AM
The Chicago Police Department’s failure to properly administer a $6.6 million tuition reimbursement program allowed 15 employees who voluntarily resigned before fulfilling their service commitment to escape $180,375 in tuition they should have repaid, a new audit shows.
Inspector General Joe Ferguson concluded that the Police Department missed eight of the 15 employees during its own review of the tuition reimbursement program and didn’t find the other seven because CPD is 20 months behind in its oversight.
Ferguson also concluded that:
—The police department accepted 6.2 percent of tuition reimbursement applications after a deadline — 30 days before the start of the upcoming school term — had passed.
—It was impossible to tell whether half the sample applications audited were filed on time because they were not time-stamped.
—CPD overpaid 3.1 percent of tuition reimbursements due to “errors and lack of review.”
Names of the 15 former employees have been forwarded to the city’s Department of Finance for collection. All of them voluntarily left the police department after January 2008. Based on the audit results, Ferguson said it’s “likely” that police officers and civilians who resigned prior to 2008 also escaped repayment.
“When run properly, this is an attractive recruitment and retention program, and it needs to be administered in a fair, competent and timely manner,” Ferguson was quoted as saying in a press release.
“The CPD should strengthen administration. . . to ensure that program rules are accurately and consistently applied, reimbursement calculations are correct and former employees who owe tuition reimbursements repayments to the city are promptly identified.”
Like similar private sector programs, the city’s $7.4 million-a-year tuition reimbursement program is designed to encourage continuing education and personal development. More than 89 percent of the money or $6.6 million was allocated to the Police Department.
Participants are eligible for reimbursement for up to two courses-per-semester or quarter toward an undergraduate, graduate or advanced degree offered by an accredited college or university. Internet course are eligible provided they’re part of a degree program.
Employees are required to submit their final grades 45 days after the end of a school term. They are reimbursed at a rate of 100 percent for courses where they achieve a grade of A and 75 percent for grades B, C or D.
Reimbursement rates for passing grades in a pass-fail course can range from 75-to-100 percent, to be determined by the city’s Department of Human Resources.
Employees who voluntarily resign less than one year after receiving a degree are required to repay 100 percent of their tuition reimbursement.
Those who leave more than one but less than two years after receiving a degree must repay half the reimbursement. If an employee leaves two years after the last reimbursement, but without receiving a degree, the repayment is 100 percent.
Employees who are fired, suspended or laid off as well as those who accept mandatory retirement are not required to repay the city.
The police department has already taken steps to “address some errors uncovered” by the audit, including time-stamping file contents, instead of just the envelopes, officials said.
The audit marks the second time in three months that Ferguson has targeted the Chicago Police Department.
In September, the IG concluded that the police department was unable to locate a “significant volume” of evidence and property found or seized by its officers because the 2.2 million items are being inadequately protected, documented and stored.
During a seven-month audit that ended on July 20, Ferguson found that police employees “could not locate” 2.8 percent of items sampled from inventory records, nor could they find documentation for 3.8 percent of physical inventory sampled.