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No Charges Arise Over Theft From Police Safe

March 01, 1987|RALPH CIPRIANO | Times Staff Writer

HUNTINGTON PARK — No charges will be filed as a result of an investigation by city police into the disappearance of money from a safe in Police Chief Geano Contessotto's office, the city's top appointed official said last week.

The investigation is "closed and no further action will be taken," said Donald L. Jeffers, the city's chief administrative officer.

Contessotto refused last week to provide any additional information about the investigation, which involved the disappearance of what Contessotto said was $6,000 in cash from his safe.

On Feb. 1, The Times reported disclosures by Contessotto about the missing cash.

In the Times story, Contessotto gave an account that could have been interpreted as suggesting that his former secretary, Sharon Francis, was responsible for the missing cash. The story specifically reported that he refused to name her as a suspect, and that Francis denied knowing anything about the missing money, saying others also had access to the safe.

The police "could not assess any fault with any individual," Jeffers said of the concluded investigation.

January Interview

Contessotto made the disclosures about the missing money and the investigation in an interview with The Times in January. In the same interview, he said city police officers had been repeatedly paid bonuses based on falsified marksmanship scores. The story about Contessotto's disclosures, based on interviews with city officials and others, was published in the Long Beach/Southeast sections.

Contessotto had said police were reviewing department records to determine which officers had benefited from marksmanship scores that Contessotto said were "altered" and "manipulated" by his former secretary.

In interviews before the Times story was published, Francis confirmed that she had altered marksmanship records. She said that she did it "just a few" times to benefit about five officers who told her they had lost their scores or were within points of qualifying for bonuses.

However, after the article was published, Francis denied in a 12-page letter to The Times that she had ever altered the documents, explaining she had misunderstood the implication of the word "altered."

Francis said in her letter that she had witnessed five officers writing their own marksmanship scores on department records. This, according to Francis, was not the department's usual procedure, which required that superior officers record the scores.

Alerted Superiors

Francis also said in her letter that "on several occasions" officers did not turn in marksmanship score cards given out at the shooting range that were usually required by the department. She said she alerted department superiors to the discrepancy but that it was not pursued.

"I do not know of anyone who actually altered or changed their scores or altered any public records," Francis said in her letter. "I certainly did not alter any public records or scores."

In her letter, Francis also disputed the article's description of departmental procedures for marksmanship tests that were in effect in 1985. The description had been based on accounts given by Contessotto and Jeffers.

Department rules in effect through mid-1986 required officers to qualify in pistol marksmanship each month. There were two passing grades. Officers who qualified at the higher level received $25 bonuses, while those who failed the test twice in one year were docked a day's pay.

Contessotto last week refused to be interviewed on any aspect of the marksmanship issue.

Jeffers said in an interview last week that he had no knowledge of the department's record-keeping procedures. But he agreed that Francis' version about the bonuses is correct and that his earlier account--that all passing scores earned a $25 bonus--had been in error.

Jeffers this week said that when he gave his January interview he was "probably under the assumption that you get paid for shooting the minimum (passing) score."

In her letter, Francis said the five officers she saw writing in their own scores gave themselves passing grades that did not qualify for bonuses.

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