adidas goodyear Double Billing the Badge
Maplewood officials inspect a squad car. (Photo: KARE 11)
What couldn’t be located was an engine block heater even though records show his department paid for it.
That’s just one example of what a year long KARE 11 investigation uncovered. Minnesota taxpayers were being charged hundreds of thousands of dollars for features on police vehicles that are not there or were paid for twice.
The master state contract for police SUV’s spells out what must be included in the standard base package at the contracted price, including spotlights, engine block heaters, and heated mirrors important features during long Minnesota winters.
Reviewing an invoice line by line. (Photo: KARE 11)
But when KARE 11 went line by line over invoices for Maplewood’s police vehicle purchases, we found they were charged extra for items that should have been included in the base price.
$79 for engine block heaters, $187 for the spotlights, $53 for heated mirrors, $30 to make the rear windows inoperative. on the findings that you’ve uncovered here, we’ve paid for items as add ons that were, or should have been included in the base price of the car, Schnell said.
billed? KARE 11 asked.
billed, Schnell replied.
A whistleblower’s tipTo understand how KARE 11 exposed this double billing scheme, we’ll need to take you behind the scenes of our investigation.
In early March 2017, we met with Steve Kleiber. He’s a private citizen with both a law enforcement and vehicle purchasing background.
Kleiber claimed that back in 2015 he discovered the St. Paul Police Department had been overcharged for spotlights and heated mirrors on some of their squad cars. They had been purchased using the state’s master contract with Nelson Auto Center of Fergus Falls.
pretty simple. They were supposed to provide it in black and white. This is what we provide. Here’s the price, Kleiber explained. they weren’t doing it. (Photo: KARE 11)
St. Paul officials took what he discovered and demanded a refund. As a result, Nelson Auto cut a check paying back more than $13,000.
Suspecting the same thing might be happening at other police departments. Kleiber says he took what he’d found to State Patrol’s Vehicle Crimes Taskforce and to the Department of Administration, the state agency which oversees the contract.
But Kleiber says he was largely ignored.
frustration level was pretty high because I took it to the people who I thought should deal with it and address the problem. And basicallly nothing has happened, he said.
Nothing for two years.
So, Kleiber reached out to KARE 11 Investigates.
Before we finished, the overbilling would add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Researching the recordsUsing public records requests, KARE 11 started by auditing the SUV purchase records from 20 different police and sheriff’s departments.
We discovered every one of them was double billed.
For example, South St. Paul Police paid $392 for upgraded LED spotlights on its SUV patrol vehicles.
found the LED’s draw less on the batteries, Chief William Messerich explained.
South St. Paul Police Chief William Messerich. (Photo: KARE 11)
But when KARE 11’s A. J. Lagoe reviewed the purchasing records, he found Chief Messerich’s department also paid $200 for the standard halogen spotlights already included in the base price on the state contract.