March 08–Cook County’s chief judge has launched a broad review of the adult probation department’s compensation practices after a Tribune investigation found that one of its top leaders had compiled more than $200,000 in compensatory time.
Philippe Loizon, a deputy chief in the Cook County Adult Probation Department, accrued at least 3,674 hours of comp time from 2003 into 2015, the Tribune found.
Now, Chief Judge Timothy Evans, who oversees the court system’s probation department, has started a review of Loizon’s compensation as well as that of other senior managers in the department, “given the high number” of hours Loizon accumulated, Evans’ spokesman, Pat Milhizer, wrote in an email. The review will also look at what Evans’ office and others knew about the matter, Milhizer wrote.
In addition, the probation department is changing its personnel policies to forbid exempt employees, who include members of the executive staff, from accruing comp time — bringing the department more in line with the policies of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Sheriff Tom Dart and Court Clerk Dorothy Brown.
Evans’ office was first made aware of Loizon’s accumulation of significant hours of compensatory time in 2013, according to internal correspondence, yet apparently did little about it.
Loizon has been a controversial figure in the probation department. In 2014, he was taken off the streets and ordered onto desk duty by Evans following a Tribune investigation that found rogue probation officers had allegedly planted drugs, stolen money and improperly teamed up with Chicago police and FBI agents to conduct warrantless searches.
Evans hired a Chicago law firm to look into what the Tribune uncovered in 2014. He has not said what, if anything, was found.
Loizon, 52, remained on the probation department’s payroll. In August, he went on medical leave and has begun using his comp time, according to county payroll records.
Even with his reassignment, Loizon retained the title of deputy chief — one of the most senior managers in a department with hundreds of employees — and makes more than $115,000 a year. He declined to comment for this article.
Loizon joined the probation department in November 1988 and rose through the ranks, earning a reputation as a tireless worker. The department and its officers work for the court system and monitor about 25,000 convicts sentenced to probation instead of prison. Probation officers’ role, which separates them from police officers, involves helping a convict get drug treatment, a high school diploma and a job.
In June 2003, Loizon was promoted to deputy chief, one of 11 currently in the department. He oversaw several of the department’s armed-officer units, including the Gang Intervention Unit, which monitors high-risk gang members who are serving a sentence of probation.
He soon began accumulating comp time.
Under the probation department’s long-standing policy, exempt employees like Loizon and other senior managers may receive one hour of comp time for each hour of overtime worked. The policy does not limit the number of hours an employee may collect but states that the hours must be used within 60 days unless waived by a supervisor.
From 2004 to June 2015, Loizon was automatically credited every week with four hours of comp time for monitoring a “cellphone dedicated to calls to and from the Chicago Police Department,” Evans spokesman Milhizer said. “He was on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
Milhizer said the department’s Gang Intervention Unit shares information with city police about gang members on probation.
“The weekly estimation of four hours acknowledged that there might be more or less than four hours of work, and it compensates the employee for the uncertainty of when work will arise and disrupt life outside of the workplace in addition to time actually worked,” Milhizer said.
Loizon accrued at least 2,080 hours of comp time for answering the phone, or one year’s pay.
Deputy Chief Loizon accumulated additional comp time — some 1,594 hours — for working beyond his 40-hour work weeks, Milhizer said.
Evans’ office learned about Loizon’s significant accumulation of comp time hours in 2013. That’s when Loizon hired Chicago lawyer Jerome Marconi to help resolve issues over his pay.
In a July 11, 2013, letter to Jesus Reyes, then acting chief probation officer, Marconi wrote that Loizon had documents showing he earned comp time hours and wanted a meeting to discuss the matter. Marconi sent a copy of the letter to Evans’ director of human resources.
“I am requesting your assistance in resolving DC Loizon’s compensation issues,” Marconi wrote, referring to Loizon’s title of deputy chief. “DC Loizon desires to resolve these issues internally before filing any official complaints against the County.”
Reyes wrote a memo to Evans’ office dated July 25, 2013, and said he agreed that Loizon should be reimbursed for the hours worked. He attached Loizon’s time sheets for 2012 and 2013, noting that Lavone Haywood, then Loizon’s immediate supervisor, had not disputed that Loizon worked those hours.
Haywood, whom Evans promoted to lead the department in March 2014, had long been one of Loizon’s supervisors and had signed and approved his time sheets, according to records. Haywood did not return messages seeking comment.
Marconi, in an interview, said he did not believe the matter was ever resolved. “It just kind of died,” he said.
Asked what the chief judge’s office knew in 2013 and what it did about it, Milhizer responded that the office is “reviewing the history of this matter.”
It wasn’t until June 2015 that Haywood ended Loizon’s after-hours gang phone responsibilities. Now, calls between Chicago police and the department are handled by on-duty staff.
Milhizer said the chief judge’s office was trying to determine if Loizon was given a 60-day waiver for using his comp time.
The review should be completed in April, Milhizer said. He said the probation department plans to revamp its comp time policy this month.
“The new policy would prohibit the accrual of compensatory time for exempt employees — executive employees, administrative employees and managerial employees,” Milhizer said. “It would also, in most instances, require employees to use compensatory time within one year of accrual.”
Milhizer said exempt employees rarely should be allowed to accrue comp time because they are paid better than rank-and-file workers.
“It is not appropriate — both fiscally and operationally — to allow them to accrue comp time,” Milhizer said. “Their salaries should compensate them for additionally worked hours.”
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