County Controller, D.A. Probe On Constables Finds Overbilling
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — They’re officers of the law, performing a valuable public service – executing warrants and transporting prisoners, sometimes for little pay.
“We’re the biggest bang for the buck when you get down to it,” said Jim Miller, of the Allegheny County Constable Association. “We’re not hourly employees, we’re not salaried employees and we get absolutely no benefits.”
But concerns over public money arose with the arrest of Constable Tim Dzugan who stands accused of defrauding Allegheny County of $2,700 in payments for 150 invalid warrants.
A joint investigation by the Allegheny County District Attorney and County Controller Chelsa Wagner has found more than $30,000 in improper charges involving dozens of constables, though no new charges will be filed.
“There are certainly some instances where people were working the system, but I think a lot of this has been bad practices that went on for a long time,” said Wagner.
The investigation also found examples of payment for invalid warrants, double payments for the same warrant and vouchers for services not rendered.
Wagner says constables transported prisoner to the Allegheny County Jail, but also claimed payment for having them fingerprinted even though that task is performed by jail personnel.
The Constable Association says the county’s fee definitions are unclear.
“I think it was an oversight. I don’t think anybody sat down on purpose to bunk anybody or fraud anybody,” said Miller.
While the county is asking for the overpayments back, Wagner gives the constables the benefit of the doubt, recommending training classes to clarify the fees and getting everyone on the same page.
“We welcome that,” she said. “We want that training, we’ve asked for that training.”