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Houston police mechanics' bonuses under investigation

The Associated Press

HOUSTON- Prosecutors are investigating a police program that has paid more than $300,000 in bonuses to supervisors of department mechanics since 2004.

Mechanics who repair police vehicles earn bonuses if they complete their work faster than industry standards. Supervisors also get bonuses depending on how well their mechanics perform, said Lt. Robert Manzo, a department spokesman.

According to records obtained by the Houston Chronicle, one shop manager got $47,000 in extra pay _ the most among at least 12 fleet supervisors who received bonuses. Another got $32,000 and four others received more than $30,000 each, records show.

City Controller Annise Parker said the department needs to review the plan.

"It shouldn't be a supervisor getting a bonus because his subordinate hits a target. It should be a supervisor getting a bonus because he exceeds his job," she said.

Police commanders are also reviewing the program. Executive Assistant Chief Martha Montalvo said police managers are sometimes eligible for incentives, but she isn't sure whether that should be the case for those in the fleet program.

"I don't think there was anything illegal about it. Would I like to make changes to it? Of course," she said.

But Montalvo said the program is worth the money because the average number of marked police vehicles available has increased about 5 percent since 2002. The productivity also has allowed the mechanics to work on other departments' vehicles.

Support staff, such as inventory clerks, car attendants and administrative assistants, also get commissions if the mechanics beat expectations.

The district attorney's office investigation of the program is a part of its probe of all city bonuses.

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