Some Sterling paperwork found

Published 1:09 pm Saturday, March 17, 2018

The independent investigator tasked with handling the probe of a fired Port Arthur police detective changed his previous testimony regarding compensatory time slips.

Ellis County Sheriff Charles “Chuck” Edge, who was hired as an independent investigator in the case against Mickey Sterling, had previously said there were no records of Sterling taking comp time because he was previously unaware such documents existed. Edge testified he originally thought the notation “CT” stood for court time but learned it stands for “comp time.”

During cross examination by Sterling’s attorney Bob Thomas, Edge saw approximately 14 time slips for comp time with varying increments; two hours, three hours, four hours and five hours for different instances.

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There were also records of Sterling taking several hours of vacation time.

The use of comp and vacation time was disputed in previous testimony with the though that Sterling mainly took flex time off when working an off duty job. Flex time is on a honor system under the previous police department’s administration where an officer would make up the work missed such as staying late or coming in early.

Edge said he had serious concern if the comp and vacation time slips were accurate, saying there should be a paper trail and that officers must request comp or vacation time in writing first.

“I have serious concerns about payroll that hasn’t been asked (by attorneys). If you take two hours of comp time there should be a similar slip (of paper),” Edge said. “The CID (criminal investigations division) secretary enters that and it is signed by one of the supervisors and the supervisor is Mr. (Scott) Gaspard and he owns the company.”

Gaspard is a former sergeant with PAPD who resigned last year when an investigation was launched. He and his wife are owners of Professional Police Escorts LLC, an escort business for which Sterling and other officers worked while off-duty.

Arbitrator Bob Hays asked Edge if there was any evidence of a payroll audit, to which Edge said no.

“I did not find any evidence of a payroll audit,” Edge said. “It is not supposed to be an honor system, any comp or vacation time is supposed to have an accompanying paper.”

Sterling, a veteran officer with the department, was one of five officers placed on administrative leave in June after Det. Elie Van Horn, citing the Texas Whistleblower Act, filed an affidavit against them. Van Horn’s allegations ranged from obstruction or retaliation and misuse of official information to official oppression. Sterling was fired in June 2017.

Due to a statute of limitations police officers and fire fighters cannot be disciplined for non-criminal actions more than 180 days after they occurred. The focus of the hearing is now on Sterling’s alleged untruthfulness during the investigation.

Edge said Sterling was evasive in his answers during the investigation and, in his opinion, was untruthful.