SANTA FE (KRQE) – A new audio recording shows just how close a Santa Fe Police Lieutenant came to being fired after being accused of lying on his time card but he claims he was working from home.
The recording given to KRQE News 13 from the Santa Fe New Mexican is of a conversation between former Chief Ray Rael and then Lieutenant Jason Wagner back in November.
Rael questioned Wagner about what appeared to be a disappearing act. Wagner is now the subject of a grand jury investigation into possible payroll fraud.
“Over the last few months we’ve had several complaints, that were brought to the captain, indicating that you were not working a full shift; that you were never available and that you were basically defrauding the city out of time,” Rael said in the recording.
Instead of being at work, while on duty, Rael said Wagner spent a lot of time at home. The lieutenant said he was working from home because he was too distracted when working in the office. Part of Wagner’s job was to investigate complaints against other officers.
“I use an office that’s shared by two teams as well as my 18 officers that are here when I’m here,” Wagner replied.
However, Wagner told Rael he only got permission to work from home once. He admitted that he should have gotten permission every time, but said he took that upon himself.
In the recording, Wagner couldn’t seem to recall how often after that he worked out of the office.
“From your statements, I understand you do report that you’ve only done it once or twice a week?” Rael said.
“I don’t, like I say, I don’t really keep that much track,” Wagner said. “I don’t know if its only two times a week.”
In the recording, Rael said in a time span of just over a month Wagner was out of the office for an extended period of time or left early 28 days.
A department spokesperson said they were able to track that information because at the time questions about Wagner’s disappearances surfaced about 40% of patrol cars had new GPS trackers.
“Given the number, its more than just your bad,” Rael said. “So, how do we handle this? Because under any circumstances this is a terminable offense.”
“OK, I can’t tell you how to handle this other than I won’t type at home and flex out time,” Wagner said.
Rael did not fire Wagner. A department spokesperson also confirmed that an internal affairs investigation never started before Wagner resigned in January.
However, Wagner was recently rehired by new Chief of Police Eric Garcia. He’s even been promoted to captain.
KRQE asked to speak with Garcia about why he rehired Wagner but were told he couldn’t comment because of the possibility of a pending lawsuit.
The department did tell News 13 Garcia hired an independent investigator to do a background check on Wagner to make sure he was rehireable.