West Haven police sergeant used Facebook aliases, deleted posts, report alleges

Details of alleged abuse of overtime by a now-retired police sergeant who is facing criminal charges have emerged in a report obtained by the Register, concluding that the officer inflated overtime hours and compensatory time to himself and the school resource officers he supervised.

In some cases, then-Sgt. David Tammaro, who was the department’s public information officer — writing news releases and answering questions of the media — put in for more hours on incidents than the actual investigators working on the case, the report states.

Part of the time Tammaro charged for in his role as public information officer involved working the department’s Facebook account — and it was discovered during the investigation that he used aliases on the account to respond to or offer comments to information on the Facebook page. Those aliases were Salvatore Gallucci and Rinaldo Rovella.

Tammaro, a 28-year veteran of the department, was given broad freedoms in the job because of all his years of experience, police officials have said.

The external investigation was done by Knight & Cerritelli at the request of City Attorney Lee Kennedy Tiernan to ensure “a conflict free and unbiased report” from West Haven police, which had been conducting an internal investigation, the report states.

The external report was completed mostly based on interviews and information city police had gathered for the internal investigation.

When the law firm took over, the department’s internal investigation was halted, a police department source said, and so the firm’s report stands as the official report.

The report, seeking to determine whether Tammaro violated department rules, doesn’t mean disciplinary action will be taken , because Tammaro has since retired and therefore is not subject to department discipline, the source said.

But the report, completed in August — a month before Tammaro retired — states that, based on the findings, the police chief or Board of Police Commissioners “may wish to review” the police department’s general orders relating to recordkeeping, falsification, overtime, compensatory time, and disciplinary procedure, specifically conduct unbecoming an officer.

The report in its conclusion lists 17 recommendations for the department to “correct deficiencies” identified in the report in order to “promote accountability and improve morale” within the department, including updating overtime and compensatory time slips; clarifying the rules for school resource officers and Board of Education events they attend; and a policy requiring a chief or deputy chief to randomly audit overtime slips on a weekly basis.

None of the recommendations has been addressed, a department source said, because most of the suggested controls are in place, but were not adhered to in this case.

Tammaro, who is free on $10,000 non-surety bail, was charged by Connecticut State Police in October with 87 counts of second-degree forgery related to his use of overtime. Because Tammaro is not charged with larceny, the charges would not require him to pay back any money he may have been paid for work not earned, a source said.

Tammaro could not be reached for comment. But his attorney, William Dow of New Haven, said “the report is not evidence.”

“In courtrooms we deal with evidence,” Dow said. “I am going to appear on the next court date and represent Sgt. Tammaro there, not in the newspaper.”

Before retiring and after the alleged abuses came to light, Tammaro had been on paid administrative leave since late February/early March of 2018.

The external and criminal investigations allege Tammaro falsified hours on overtime slips and forged signatures of supervisors, approving the hours as worked. As part of an agreement negotiated with the union and administration years ago, the PIO position carries four hours of overtime built into the 40-hour work week, the report states. Those extra hours were to compensate for time spent on social media, including the West Haven The Way It Is Facebook page, WHPD.com and Tips 411, the report states.

Tammaro was called out by a fellow police officer and it finally stuck after several in the department had for a long time tried to bring the alleged behaviors to police Chief John Karajanis for a formal investigation. It has been reported that Karajanis and Tammaro are close friends and that Karajanis, who now is on sick leave, finally took action.

Tammaro told investigators he had permission from Karajanis and Deputy Police Chief Joseph Perno to use their “C1” and “C2” codes to approve overtime. Perno told investigators Tammaro did not have permission to sign his name to timeslips.

The report states, “Even Chief Karajanis acknowledged that some of the claimed overtime by Sergeant Tammaro was inappropriate and should not have been paid.”

The arrest warrant affidavit states that Tammaro as the department’s public information officer and crime prevention officer and as supervisor of its school resource officer and community resource officer programs, reported directly to Karajanis.

The external investigation indicates that Tammaro played fast and loose with overtime and compensatory time for himself and those under his supervision.

The report lists pages of occasions that in working as the public information officer, Tammaro’s hours didn’t match up with the cases being investigated. Many officers interviewed as part of the report claim Tammaro rarely was at crime scenes outside of the scope his regular day hours, although he charged overtime.

Some instances of “overtime abuse” listed in the investigation report include:

In July 2017, a person was reported missing at 1:34 p.m. and found about an hour later, but Tammaro generated overtime until 6 p.m. His last verified activity had been at 2:47 p.m.

In August 2017, the department’s traffic unit investigated a fatal motor vehicle accident and received six hours of overtime, but Tammaro received eight hours of OT, to monitor Facebook “with no articulable need to do so.”

In November 2017, Tammaro was paid eight hours of overtime to monitor social media for an accident involving an Orange police cruiser in West Haven that was being investigated by state police.

In another case, Tammaro received four hours of overtime from 3 a.m. to 7 a.m. for a raid that didn’t start until 4 a.m.

In May 2017, a hostage situation started at 12:04 p.m. and ended at 1:38 p.m. but Tammaro generated eight hours of overtime to monitor social media until 11 p.m.

The investigation concluded that the overtime slips entered for Tammaro by Tammaro — as well as the slips for those he supervised — were “sloppy and incomplete.”

The report makes special note under the heading, “Sergeant Tammaro’s Cell Phone.” The report states that when Tammaro handed over his department-issued cellphone for data recovery, there had had been a passcode installed, but Tammaro “disavowed” any knowledge of a passcode. When phones require a password, they cannot be opened without the code.

In addition, the preferences on the phone were changed so the phone would restore to factory settings after a certain number of failed attempts to enter a passcode.

The phone, the report states, now is in the “custody” of the state police as part of the criminal investigation.

The report calls for an investigation to see who had access to the cellphone, or “whether an active member of the West Haven Police Department placed a passcode on the phone and changed its settings.” The actions may constitute a felony charge of tampering with physical evidence, the report states.

One portion of the investigation findings addresses the issue of overtime and compensatory time for the school resource officers and community resource officers supervised by Tammaro, concluding in part that he “inappropriately” gave compensatory time to those employees, assigned too many officers to events and made unilateral decisions to staff events with officers.

In several cases, the report states, the officers under his supervision received overtime for hours they have no recollection of working or received OT or compensatory time in excess of the hours actually worked.

The findings state that community resource officers “routinely received four hours of overtime or six hours of compensatory time irrespective of the time actually worked,” for gigs such as attending police commission meetings that usually required a presence of only an hour to 90 minutes.

For school board events, there is a four-hour minimum of pay, per union contract. But school resource officers, the external report states, routinely were awarded a minimum of four hours overtime for school board events that “clearly were not related to the Board of Education,” including the Our Lady of Victory graduation, which the report states should have been an hour-for-hour pay event.

The investigation states, “The unilateral decision by Sgt. David Tammaro to issue compensatory time for many of these functions was to avoid the inevitable questions that would arise had the institutions or Board of Education received a bill for police services.”