Marco cop cashed in personal time, bought condo after using other officers' donated hours

Devan Patel
Marco Eagle

Public records show a current Marco Island police officer used personal leave hours donated from fellow officers before cashing out his own and purchasing a condo.

In an email to the City Council and city manager earlier this year, former Sgt. Micheal Vogel, who retired on May 10, made allegations of impropriety against current Sgt. Mark Haueter among a number of complaints lodged against the police department.

Haueter, who required medical procedures two years ago to combat a form of mouth cancer and missed weeks of work, received 521 donated hours from officers, including Vogel, after Police Chief Al Schettino solicited donations in August 2016, public records show.

File: Marco Island Police Sergeant Mark Haueter.

“ […] These hours were donated by other officers and civilian employees for his cancer surgery,” Vogel wrote. “If he didn’t need them anymore they should have been saved for others or returned the hours back to the officers and civilians who graciously donated them. Instead, he cashed them in for his personal gain. I know for a fact that he used the donated time prior to using his own personal leave.”

While City Clerk Laura Litzan said there was no explicit policy about the use of donated leave hours, the use of donated hours ahead of an employee’s own hours contradicts best practices established by human resources experts.

The practice is found in most state agencies, counties and cities in Florida where it is explicitly written that an employee must exhaust all of his or her personal leave hours before donated hours can be used.

This sentiment is also expressed as a main component by the Internal Revenue Services for leave-donation programs as well as in the Society for Human Resource Management’s how-to-guide and a sample policy for establishing leave programs.

Asked about best practices, SHRM's Knowledge Base referred to an IRS bulletin that stated there was no data to support companies offering leave sharing to employees with time available as well as it not being an effective practice to allow use of donated hours when others may be in need.

The police department declined to comment and referred questions to the city’s payroll department. Litzan said the city may not be able to answer how that was permitted and referred decision making to former City Manager Roger Hernstadt.

Neither Haueter, who is under investigation after messages surfaced that suggest he was sexting on duty, or Hernstadt responded to request for comment.

Documents obtained through a public records request show a spreadsheet was created on Aug. 17, 2016, by payroll coordinator Brandi Garwood to track donations for Haueter. The document also lists that donated hours were used first, matching the dates on Haueter’s paychecks when the leave was used, and corroborate Vogel’s account.

“I saw every personal leave requested on paychecks,” Vogel wrote in his email to the City Council. “The note field on those request specifically stated to use donated time. When his surgery was over, the Chief authorized Sgt. [Haueter] to cash in 200 hours of his personal leave. Per contract, this donated time should only have been used after he depleted his own personal leave.”

On Aug. 18, 2016, Schettino solicited donations for Haueter from police department employees with a goal of receiving 420 to 460 hours to alleviate any financial burden “during his time of need.”

Prior to soliciting donations, Haueter requested permission to cash out 100 personal leave hours in June, leaving him with 429.81 accrued hours at that point. This meant that had Haueter not cashed out those hours, he would have had enough accrued hours to cover what he used in donations had he not accrued any additional hours.

While using donated hours, Haueter also cashed out 100 hours of his own leave in December 2016, leaving him with 422.09 hours, before he used donated leave for the last time the following month.

On the same day Haueter received the last paycheck in which donated hours were used, property records show Haueter had mortgage documents notarized for the purchase of a $176,400 condominium before submitting them to the Collier County Clerk of Court.  

Haueter has cashed out personal leave hours a few more times since the donations.

Donated hours from fellow officers were not the only assistance he received.

Between a fundraiser at the Sunset Grille and a GoFundMe, the Marco Island community raised more than $65,000 to support Haueter through his medical problems. 

The documents provided through public records request also show the city miscalculated how many of the hours were used.

According to his January 27, 2017, paycheck, Haueter received wages from 42 hours of personal leave whereas the city’s spreadsheet shows Haueter exhausted the remaining 45 hours of donated leave.