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Originally published Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 9:09 PM

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Retired trooper is accused of fudging OT, fixing parking tickets

A retired State Patrol lieutenant accused of falsifying overtime has been charged with official misconduct by the King County Prosecutor's Office for allegedly padding his retirement by claiming overtime he didn't work and fixing parking tickets by saying he got them while on official business.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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A retired State Patrol lieutenant accused of falsifying overtime has been charged with official misconduct by the King County Prosecutor's Office.

William Gardiner, who retired from the State Patrol in October, is accused of claiming hundreds of hours in overtime he did not work and "miscoding" overtime so that it would count toward his retirement.

The 51-year-old is also alleged to have lied to Seattle police and the city's Municipal Court in order to have four parking tickets dismissed, according to the charges filed in King County Superior Court.

Neither Gardiner nor an attorney for the Washington State Patrol Lieutenants' Association, which previously criticized the investigation, could be reached for comment on Wednesday.

The internal investigation was opened in September after an audit showed that Gardiner, the assistant commander of the Patrol's Bellevue District Office, had claimed "an exorbitant amount of overtime compared to his peers," according to the charges.

Gardiner claimed more than 482 hours of overtime in the first seven months of 2011, court documents say. During that same period, the two other State Patrol lieutenants in King County each claimed less than five hours of overtime, according to charging documents.

Gardiner's claims of overtime increased dramatically during his last two years on the force, the documents said. Retirement pay is based on the highest-paid consecutive 24-month period, which is usually the last two years of a trooper's career, according to charging documents.

Investigators also determined that Gardiner signed up to work overtime in two ongoing emphasis patrols. One was along Highway 99, where officers were supposed to be watching out for driving that undermined pedestrian safety. The other was an HOV-lane enforcement on Highway 167.

Court documents say that in numerous instances on both patrols, Gardiner checked in electronically at the beginning and end of his shifts, but did not report any contact with violators. In other cases, he claimed he had pulled someone over in one location when his cellphone records showed him to be somewhere else, including Woodinville and Monroe, charging documents state.

Prosecutors also say that parking tickets issued to his personal car — twice while it was parked near the University of Washington where his daughter goes to school — were dismissed after he told police and court officials he'd gotten the tickets while on State Patrol business.

The alleged padded overtime and falsification of work records cost the State Patrol $14,747 in 2011 and added $3,522 to Gardiner's annual retirement benefits, court documents say.

Were Gardiner to have received benefits for 20 years, with cost-of-living increases, he would have netted more than $97,000 that he did not earn, prosecutors say.

State records show that in 2010 Gardiner was paid about $163,000 — more than any other State Patrol employee, including State Patrol Chief John Batiste, who earned $140,000. In that year alone, Gardiner earned about $91,000 in regular pay, records show.

His overtime pay reached about $72,000 but may have been slightly lower with differential cost-of-living pay he earned for working in King County, state records indicate.

If convicted on the gross misdemeanor charge, Gardiner could face up to one year in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Bob Calkins, a spokesman for the State Patrol, said the agency believes the charges are appropriate given the circumstance.

"Our investigation convinced us that there was overtime claimed when no actual work was done, among other issues," he wrote in an email. "This is not the kind of behavior we want senior managers modeling for those they lead, and is definitely not representative of Mr. Gardiner's 2300 or so co-workers. We took action when we first saw a possible problem, and we appreciate the Prosecutor's thorough review of our case report."

Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or cclarridge@seattletimes.com

Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report, which includes information from Times archives.

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