COLUMBUS — Two former members of the Columbus Police Department have been put on probation, but will not be put in jail, after both pleaded guilty to ghost employment charges.
47-year-old Dan Meister and 59-year-old Ronald May were sentenced Wednesday by a special judge from neighboring Jackson County. As part of the plea agreement, charges of official misconduct and theft were dropped. Each was given a one-year suspended sentence and will be on probation.
Additionally, the ghost employment charges were reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor.
The ghost employment involved security jobs the two officers worked at Columbus Regional Hospital between 2015 and 2018 when they were supposed to be working for the police department.
Meister was a lieutenant with the department and and May was a sergeant. They were charged in February following an investigation by state police.
But the cases involving the two officers may be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ghost employment at the Columbus PD.
WRTV Investigates last week reported on a state audit and criminal investigation into possible ghost employment involving other members of the department, including high-ranking officers.
What is ghost employment? "Ghost employment is basically stealing from the government," said Arthur Lopez, Indiana University Business Law and Ethics professor. “It’s where you go out there and you have a preexisting duty to do a job but during that time, you're doing something else, some other job— so you're basically stealing."
Columbus is the county seat of Bartholomew County and is about 45 miles south of Indianapolis, off Interstate 65.