Given the chance to treat one of their own like any other suspect, a Las Vegas police union representing managers and supervisors (you know, the leaders who should serve as examples) did the wrong thing.
They circled the wagons in a defensive mode, partly in order to avoid bad publicity.
Instead, all they did was reinforce the suspicions that dirty cops are protected by the law enforcement brotherhood.
Review-Journal reporter Francis McCabe broke the story about former Lt. Paul Page, the former chairman of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Managers and Supervisors Association accused of misappropriating $38,521 in union funds.
Now, I always thought that sort of thing was a crime called embezzlement and people were charged.
Not Page. His union placed him on paid administrative leave in November and in January his union members voted against filing a criminal complaint against him, although no final decision has been made by union leaders.
In December, Page, 46, after working 18 years as a police officer, was approved for disability retirement by the Public Employees’ Retirement System. His disability has not become public.
Now this is the union’s money he supposedly was misappropriating, but the PERS money is tax dollars, your money. But under PERS, he is entitled to it, something he well knows since he was a member of the PERS board, appointed by that great judge of character, former Gov. Jim Gibbons. His position with PERS is now listed as vacant.
Page knows a little something about fraud, since he is a certified fraud specialist. Prior to taking over the full-time job at the union, his assignments included working as a detective with the special investigations and criminal intelligence sections. His brother is Kevin Page, a university regent and investment banker. They serve together on a nonprofit, the Police and Fire Emerald Society of Nevada, raising scholarship money.
So what did this bad boy supposedly do?
An audit into the financial discrepancies by Anthem Forensics concluded some $22,387 were “intentional discrepancies” and another $16,134 were “inappropriate charges.”
One example, Page, the union’s chairman since 2004, would buy computers and luxury office equipment annually, use them at his home and, after a year, turn them over to the union.
Instead of pushing for Page’s prosecution, it was more important to the majority of union members at a Jan. 26 meeting to get their money back faster, avoid media attention, and put this betrayal of their trust behind them.
Geez, I bet a lot of criminals wish the police took that view more often. Let me give back what I stole, and we’ll just forget the whole thing. Is the new police motto “restitution brings forgiveness”?
With what they’ve paid for lawyers and auditors, the union, which represents 450 sergeants, lieutenants and captains, wants restitution of about $51,200.
Despite the union vote, the new union board chairman, Lt. John Faulis, said it remains undecided whether to ask for prosecution as the internal investigation continues.
Presuming the facts uncovered by the audit are accurate, Page shouldn’t get a pass from prosecution.
Sheriff Doug Gillespie said he didn’t tell the union he once belonged to what to do, but explained to leaders what action would be necessary for prosecution and suggested the audit. He wouldn’t say how he would have voted if he still had been a member, saying while he was aware of the issues, he lacked details and specifics of what Page allegedly did. “The important thing for them to do is to be clear what took place,” Gillespie said Wednesday.
If the union had voted for Page’s prosecution, it would have sent a strong message.
Instead, the union, so far, has sent a strong message, but the wrong kind of message.
Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0275. She also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/morrison.