QUINCY (CBS) – A former Quincy police lieutenant convicted of “double dipping” began a one-year sentence in federal prison on Thursday.
In June, a jury found Thomas Corliss guilty of ripping off taxpayers by collecting double pay for working overlapping details and police shifts in 2015.
However, prior to heading to prison, the WBZ I-Team discovered Corliss received a payout for thousands of dollars of unused sick time. It’s a check he would not have received if the City of Quincy had fired him.
A source within the Quincy Police Department first tipped off the I-Team, upset the veteran officer had not been terminated prior to the payout.
“I’m sure it looks bad to taxpayers,” acknowledged Quincy’s city solicitor, Jim Timmins. “But I think the critics don’t understand how things work. We followed the system, and unfortunately, the system allowed for this type of situation to play out.”
In 2015, Corliss was the top earner in Quincy, raking in more than $265,000 of salary and overtime wages.
But during that time, federal prosecutors described him as “nothing more than a thief in uniform.” An internal investigation by the Quincy Police Department revealed Corliss “double dipped” by working multiple overlapping shifts.
Prosecutors also said Corliss traveled to places like the Bahamas and Martha’s Vineyard, but left himself on the daily roster instead of taking the vacation time.
By state law, Corliss was entitled to cash in the accrued vacation time. When asked about the accuracy of the accrued total, Timmins said the City had already stripped Corliss of 20 vacation days as punishment following the internal investigation.
However, if Corliss had been fired, the I-Team learned the 188 days of unused sick time would have been off-limits, according to the collective-bargaining agreement.
“We were ready to go, but we had to wait to see what the verdict was first,” Timmins explained.
That jury verdict was announced on Monday afternoon, June 12. City leaders congregated the next day and then sent out a termination notice to Corliss.
However, unbeknownst to them, the 26-year veteran officer had beat them to the punch, submitting his retirement paperwork earlier that morning, according to a copy the I-Team obtained.
Not only did it allow Corliss to start collecting his $7,272.36 monthly pension, it also made him eligible for $9,425 of sick time. That amount is enough to cover the $8,211.42 restitution he owes for defrauding the City.
When asked if the scenario exposed a flaw in the system, Timmins said, “I don’t think the system should work that way, but that’s how it’s set up.”
The Quincy Retirement Board is in the process of determining if Corliss’ pension should be stripped, a possible scenario because the crime was related to his job as police officer.
Corliss’ attorney did not respond to an inquiry from WBZ, but records indicate he plans to appeal the criminal conviction.
Timmins wondered if there should be a similar review process allowed for criminal municipal employees to prevent them from receiving payouts.
“I do think there’s a real problem with someone who is convicted of a felony getting the type of payout that occurred because it does make taxpayers wonder what the heck is going on,” he said.
Ryan Kath can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Twitter or connect on Facebook.