Back-Yard-Parking State Employee Got Overtime in Prior Years


On WPRI Eyewitness News (channel 12), Tim White nabs another public employee whose workday appears to involve strange behavior.  This time, it’s a weatherization specialist parking his government vehicle behind his house for much of the day and moving it around to his driveway when his shift is over.

Out of curiosity, I looked the employee, Dennis Lopes, up on the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s RIOpenGov site.  It’s important to emphasize that this data does not overlap with White’s investigation chronologically, so there’s no evidence that Lopes’s practices aren’t recent developments.

That said, in both 2010 and 2011, the only Dennis Lopes listed on the payroll managed to enhance his regular pay by about 4% with payments that the state categorizes as overtime.  In 2010, he added $2,059 to a base of $50,086; in 2011, he added $2,003 to $51,482.

It’s interesting to note that the only other person listed in the same division, John Costello, who has the same job title, had no overtime during either year.  That division is HHS/Weatherization.  There’s also a DOE/Weatherization division listed, and the only employee in it, Julie Capobianco, had no overtime either.  (Although, her job title is different.)

The most important part of the WPRI report, however, is this:

The Weatherization Assistance Program is funded through federal tax dollars and a surcharge on National Grid bills.

In 2009, the program saw a massive influx of money from the federal stimulus program, money targeted at weatherizing 2,500 homes for Rhode Island’s needy families. In all the state received $20.1 million in stimulus money, according to data from the Dept. of Energy.

In 2012, the program received $4.2 million in federal money, according to Anthes, and $2.7 million from National Grid.

In its multiple stories on the high overtime pay of employees in various job categories in the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH), the Ocean State Current found a similar thread. (See here for the latest, with links to prior stories.)  When federal money flows in as a funding source, along with other non-state funding, in order to accomplish a charitable or trendy goal, it appears that the incentive to keep an eye on costs is weakened from what it ought to be. White’s report suggests that, in some cases, the incentive may not even be enough to check whether work is actually being done.

In those stories about federal stimulus programs that rapidly faded from public memory, many people wondered where all money went.  In response to waste and fraud investigations into social service programs, many people wonder where all that money goes.

We’re gradually finding out.

  • Warrington Faust

    Although there is probably an aphorism to cover it, I am reminded of an incident in my youth when I did an "internship" with the Boston City Council. Their meetings were usually covered by the TV news. A councilor was going on with a seemingly interminable list of waste and abuse he had discovered in a federally funded program. As he went on, the TV news shut off the cameras and began leaving. Later I asked the Councilor I was working for why no one cared, "it's federal money, who cares".

  • Dan

    Large amounts of money + minimal oversight = abuse. Basic social science and economics. It starts out with small transgressions, perhaps even accidental. Then it snowballs over time as the employee finds he can push the envelope further and further and nobody comes knocking at his door. This is dysfunctional progressive government at its core with all incentives pointing the wrong way.

    In Rhode Island, as the old proverb goes, "Heaven is high and the emperor is far away."

  • Monique

    Where was his supervisor and who was this guy's patron???

  • Sammy in Arizona

    A tip of my hat to the patriotic whistle blower who dropped a dime on this dope

    Thank you…Sir or Mam

  • AmericanMade626

    If you look up Mr. Lopes' name on the Rhode Island department of professional regulation and his coworker you will see that his co-worker doesn't hold the licenses that Mr.Lopes does perhaps he was looking into matters that involved heating systems/ calls for service IE NO HEAT, after normal work hours…OR would you feel better if a 78 year old women suffered because he said "sorry, call back on Monday." ?

  • Monique

    AmericanMade626, that still doesn't preclude the very real possibility that he loafed at home part of the time AND worked overtime — unless you're contending that he spent over eight hours a day five days/week tending to the heat of seventy eight year old women.

  • mangeek

    Why would you want a full-time supervisor to check the work for jobs like this when a standard private home-inspection outfit can do the same at a much lower cost?

    Between this and several other cases in recent history, I think we can see that Rhode Island has a big problem with 'who watches the watchers'. The anti-fraud units policing this sort of stuff had the same shenanigans going on a few years ago, as did the materials inspector for DOT (another job that ought to go to a private entity with insurance vs. a full-time in-house position that is only tapped every few days).

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  • Eddie D

    Its Great that we have Mr. White Checking up on things like this but in all fairness there’s a lot of other stuff that needs attention. In this case I had to comment, I know of Mr Lopes and after working with in the Same weatherization Field. I can say what ever this write what’s you to be leave it’s unlikely Mr lopes goes above and beyond every one any one and yes Mr lopes I know definitely goes out nightly to service low income no heat situations, who do u think helps these people?? You keep asking were is the help it’s right here! And you question it ? And for the record Mr lopes doesn’t need to steel one penny from the state he holds a MASTER pipefitter 1 lic if he needed money his knowledge of being a pipefitter for the last 30 years could raise him a little bit of money and think about ur low income grandmother sitting in her house when it’s 20 degrees out side with no heat ready to die she’s so cold and Denis lopes was the only one to respond at 11am at night to help her I’ll make sure to remember that next time he won’t be so Fast to respond cause Mr white might try to make a crook out of him so listen go chase things worth chasing this man Mr lopes by no means would take a penny that wasn’t rightly his if he didn’t work them hours I’ll bet my life he didn’t out in for it so again next time your sitting with ur older grandparents or mother , sister or who ever might be needy and low income and your dieing inside cause u don’t have money to help them and you reach out for help and when Dennis lopes shows up at 11am in the night to help you by any means I want you to feel like the biggest Jeri for wasting ur time with this crazy thing I guess when you have no skill set and all u do is try to make things look like they aren’t I guess Mr white at chanel 12 is also stealing money to for over time this is a false story how come no one puts him on blast ????