DA dismisses charges against officers accused of golfing on the job

Saturday, October 20th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The district attorney has dismissed felony and misdemeanor charges against two police officers accused of golfing while they were supposed to be working.

Oklahoma County District Attorney Wes Lane said Friday he now has a new policy against interfering in law enforcement ``personnel matters.'' He told law enforcement agencies in a letter that similar situations should be handled internally.

``In most instances, the charges being presented to this office deal with an errant employee who is alleged to have committed a breach of performance of duty _ failed to record his or her leave properly, failed to show up for work, abused sick-call procedures, etc.,'' the letter says.

``In these instances, it becomes a matter that can and should be addressed by your department's internal personnel policies, not a criminal matter.''

Oklahoma City officers Lt. Michael T. Nard, 46, and Lt. Dennis R. Prater, 52, were charged Nov. 8 with obtaining money by false pretenses.

Nard and Prater were charged by former District Attorney Bob Macy after police internal investigations revealed discrepancies between the hours they claimed on their time cards and the hours they actually worked. Both men were placed on administrative leave without pay.

Prater later resigned. He waived his preliminary hearing and was expected to testify against Nard.

Nard filed a grievance claiming police officials could not withhold his pay. Last month, an arbitrator agreed, granting him about $70,000 in back pay and returning him to the police payroll.

Sgt. Cris Cunningham, a police spokeswoman, said it was clear the former district attorney considered the allegations against the men worthy of criminal prosecution.

``At the time when the investigation was presented to the district attorney, it was not the department's belief nor was it the district attorney's belief that it was solely an administrative issue,'' she said.

Cunningham said the department will continue to forward possible criminal cases to Lane's office.

``The decision to dismiss charges is an option that exists for the district attorney,'' she said.

First Assistant District Attorney John Jacobsen said Friday that the charges against Nard and Prater could have been prosecuted.

``Nobody is saying that it wasn't a crime,'' he said. ``But it is one that is better handled internally with their own grievance procedure, pursuant to their own collective bargaining or whatever.''

A similar case resulted in a conviction earlier this year.

Oklahoma City police Lt. James L. Cox, 37, was accused of claiming 57 hours he did not work over two pay periods. In April, he resigned his position as part of a negotiated plea agreement with one of Macy's assistants and received a five-year deferred sentence.