JOSHUA — A search is underway for a new police chief after Joshua lost four of its 14 officers — including the chief — following an audit that showed discrepancies in the number of hours officers claimed to have worked.On Thursday, the City Council voted unanimously to hire Keller-based Strategic Government Resources, which is authorized to spend up to $24,000 on the search.City Manager Paulette Hartman said that the firm’s proposal calls for an “extensive search” that could be done nationwide, but that she also has the authority to narrow the search.With the reduction in Joshua’s police force, the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department has been helping fill weekend patrol shifts since early October.Joshua currently has nine police officers on staff.Chief Deputy Mike Powell, who is filling in as interim chief, told the council that the officers remaining in Joshua should be commended.“I look at this in a positive sense because you have some honest, ethical officers that stood up and did the right thing,” Powell said.The upheaval began late last month when former Police Chief Annabeth Robertson fired officer Nicholas Garrett, who was completing his yearlong probationary period, after an audit showed that he reported working 1,054 hours during a six-month period from March 2 to Aug. 30, while logging 1,017.8 hours in the department’s database, a difference of 36.2 hours. GPS records also showed that Garrett also spent time at his home or at the police station when he should have been on patrol.The audit was conducted by the Burleson Police Department.In her termination letter to Garrett, Robertson wrote, “The purpose of probation, in part, is to review your overall job performance and your suitability in the position for which you were hired. As the result of an administrative audit ... of timekeeping practices by you and others ... including serious questions about your accuracy in maintaining timekeeping records, I have concluded that your job performance is unacceptable and does not maintain the standards required of members of the Joshua Police Department.”On Sept. 24, Capt. Josh Vincent and officer Jacob Dupree resigned as a result of the audit, which showed that Dupree recorded working 1,074.5 hours on his time sheet while only logging 1,022.07 hours in the department’s attendance system, a difference of 52.43 hours.Vincent appeared to have signed off on a time sheet with Garrett’s extra hours, according to the audit.Robertson, who was Joshua’s first female police chief, submitted her resignation letter Sept. 25, but she did not give a reason for leaving the department.“I’m not sure if the chief knew about the hours directly which in itself is a problem,” Hartman said.None of the officers, including Robertson, responded to emails and phone calls seeking comments.Sheriff Bob Alford said it is not that unusual to step in and help smaller cities because of interlocal agreements.“I’m not calling this a hardship. All law enforcement has to pull together,” he said.
Elizabeth Campbell, 817-390-7696 Twitter: @fwstliz