AT THE BUFFET of city finances, Kenneth Rossiter is an overtime hog.
The homicide detective brought home $91,271 in overtime in addition to his $67,165 base salary in 2010, the same year he bought a brand-new, half-million-dollar home in Bustleton. When Rossiter snagged first place on the Daily News list of the city's top overtime earners that year, Deputy Mayor Everett Gillison defended Rossiter and his overtime-guzzling colleagues, saying solving murders takes time and is a city priority.
But now, investigators say Rossiter, 51, hasn't been working as hard as his bosses thought.
Internal Affairs detectives, responding to an anonymous complaint, say Rossiter racked up piles of overtime pay last year by checking into court multiple times, going home to relax at his posh pad while he was supposedly on court business and then returning at the end of the day to check back out, multiple sources say.
One day after the Daily News questioned Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey about the alleged scam last week, Rossiter was told he would be fired. He carted boxes of his belongings out of the homicide unit at Police Headquarters on Friday and was told to report to the Internal Affairs Division on Monday, when he will be suspended for 30 days with intent to dismiss, Ramsey and Fraternal Order of Police president John McNesby confirmed.
"I pulled the file after you called, because I had not read it. After I read it, [dismissing him was] consistent with actions I've taken in the past with allegations of overtime abuse. There's some culpability, as well, with his supervisors," Ramsey said Saturday. "It basically comes down to improperly putting in for overtime.
"There's conflict here: He was a good detective, so it's really a loss, but at the same time, I have to look out for the best interests of the department and the city."
McNesby denied that Rossiter abused the system and vowed to overturn his dismissal.
Rossiter's alleged fraud suggests that reforms the Police Department instituted within the past year to reduce soaring overtime pay are not foolproof and need review. The department created an overtime-management unit in January 2009, and Ramsey has credited the unit with helping police brass cut $17 million in overtime during the past three years, including more than $5 million in court-related overtime.
City records show that homicide detectives consistently rank among the city's top overtime earners.
The details of Rossiter's alleged swindle are scant. Internal Affairs supervisors declined to release their findings, saying the complaint that prompted the investigation is presumed to have originated internally, and internal complaints aren't public. McNesby said that even he hasn't seen the Internal Affairs report.
But several police sources said Internal Affairs investigators repeatedly observed Rossiter returning to his home and staying there for hours when he supposedly was in court. Investigators erected a camera near his white-brick and stucco home, and the camera caught Rossiter at home multiple times when he was officially checked in to court, the sources say.
City records show Rossiter made $92,863 in overtime in 2011, on top of a base salary of $69,521. It's unclear how much of that overtime is alleged to have occurred while he was at home.
Rossiter, reached Sunday, said the thin file he saw on the case contained no video or photographic evidence and alleged that he stole $1,226.23. He denied the allegations, saying working homicide is a 24-hour job that often has him working at home. Politics fueled the charges against him, he said, although he declined to discuss specifics.
Rossiter, a 30-year veteran of the force and married father of five, has logged time on some of the city's most famous murder cases, including those of slain officers and the notorious North Philly drug lord Kaboni Savage.
"Ask the mothers of Claire Clay, Terrence Hawkins, Malik Sims, Andrew Rivera and the Coleman family, ask them if I slept at home while I worked on their cases," Rossiter said. "Ask them if I was at home when I caught their killers. I dispute these allegations entirely."
Internal Affairs investigators sustained the allegations against Rossiter. He faced a disciplinary hearing before the Police Board of Inquiry last month, but the hearing was postponed and hadn't been rescheduled. Then Ramsey decided Friday to fire him.
Rossiter remains frustrated that he didn't get to defend himself.
"The fact that [the hearing] was canceled and [they] denied me the chance to defend myself should indicate to you that there's something going on here," he said.
The District Attorney's Office declined to press charges. D.A. spokeswoman Tasha Jamerson said she couldn't get details over the weekend on why no charges were brought, nor why prosecutors called Rossiter to court and then didn't notice that he failed to appear when called, even though he'd checked in. Cops who receive such notices typically are needed to testify in court, but sometimes prosecutors send court notices if they need a detective to show them a crime scene or otherwise confer on a case.
When cops receive notices to appear in court, they are required, under reforms instituted in recent years, to first visit City Hall, where they check in by having their fingerprints scanned. That measure ensures no one signs in for them.
Afterward, they must go to the Criminal Justice Center, Family Court or wherever they've been called and check in again via fingerprint scan. If they're not immediately needed in the courtroom, they're supposed to stay within walking distance and make themselves useful by participating in foot patrols, said Inspector Christopher Flacco, who oversees the overtime-management unit. Flacco last week said he was unaware of the details of Rossiter's case.
When cops file for overtime, their superiors are supposed to verify the overtime is legitimate rather than just rubber-stamp it. Three of Rossiter's supervisors face discipline for their apparent failure to do so, McNesby said.
McNesby vowed to fight those reprimands, too.
"The murder rates in Philadelphia are through the roof, and guys like Kenny Rossiter clear the murder rates," McNesby said. "If I had a relative who had been murdered, I would want somebody like Kenny Rossiter on the case, whether he's home, whether he's at the office, or whether he's in North Wildwood."
Rossiter vowed to get his job back. "They're going to tarnish my career for someone who is guilty of nothing, someone who has been an advocate of the victims," he said. "I have done nothing wrong." n