Columbus police officers under investigation for alleged 'ghost employment'

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COLUMBUS, Ind. (WTHR) — Two central Indiana police officers are under criminal investigation tonight. The officers are accused of working for their department while collecting pay for a second gig during the same hours. 13 Investigates went to Columbus to talk to the former Lieutenant at the center of the secret arrangement.

Lt. Dan Meister no longer works at Columbus Police Headquarters. His new assignment is in the maintenance garage far away from his former law enforcement duties.

No one was in the police maintenence office when 13 Investigates showed up. But a short time later, a white pickup truck pulled in to the drive outside. Meister was in the passenger seat and an unknown driver was behind the wheel.​

Meister got out and greeted 13 Investigates but quickly got back into the truck after 13 Investigates asked him about the investigation into his work at Columbus Regional Hospital and the Columbus Police Department.

"I'm not talking to anybody," he said.

13 Investigates confirmed Meister and Officer Ron May are under investigation for alleged double dipping and part of it on the taxpayer's dime. Allegations that could equate to possible ghost employment.

Sources tell 13 Investigates the Lieutenant and officer are accused of clocking in for police duty and then working shifts as "contract officers" for the Columbus Regional Hospital at the same time. In other words, pocketing two paychecks for the same hours worked by claiming to be on the job for both employers.

According to a hospital spokeswoman, Officers Meister and May were terminated from the hospital on November 30 of last year after the allegations came to light.

Columbus Regional said the officers were hired individually with the approval from someone at Columbus Police to provide security and protective services on the hospital's campus. The hospital spokeswoman cites an on-going investigation but declined to provide specifics about terminating the officers.

13 Investigates learned Ron May is leaving the police department after higher-ups at CPD discovered what was going on.​

Meister on the other hand was stripped of his supervisory role and sent to the maintenance garage where he is awaiting the results of the investigation.

Police officers across Indiana are routinely allowed to work security jobs, but on their own time. A number of departments allow officers to wear their official uniforms and to use their department issued cars. But clocking in on both jobs at the same time could be criminal.

13 Investigates asked to speak with the chief of police, but was told Chief John Rohde was not available. Sources close to the investigation tell WTHR the Indiana State Police is investigating possible charges of official misconduct.​

Meister is a 22-year veteran of the department. May is a 31-year veteran. He is expected to retire in May, but has not worked at the department since he and Meister were terminated from their hospital positions back in November.

A report obtained by 13 Investigates late Thursday shows the Columbus Police Department turned the case over to the Indiana State Police on November 30th. The same day the officers were terminated from Columbus Regional Hospital. And according to the report the alleged "ghost employment" may have gone on for nearly a year, starting January 1, 2018 and ending November 29th.

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