Prison psychiatrist Anthony Coppola earned more than $540,000 in 2016 while “double dipping” at two government agencies, a state prison in Tracy and an Alameda County jail, the Sacramento Bee reports.
Coppola’s attorney, Brian Crone, said the psychiatrist was doing nothing wrong because the chief of mental health and the prison warden at Tracy knew what he was doing. Coppola split his workdays and vacation days between the two government agencies.“
“Corruption within the California state prison system cannot be tolerated,” U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman to NBC San Diego regarding the indictment of a 23-year CDCR veteran caught smuggling heroin and meth into prison.
California public employees, for the most part, are allowed to moonlight, and they can work a second job on their vacation days. However, the total of Coppola’s dual incomes was unprecedented.
CDCR officials caught notice of the conspicuous sum two years ago during a staffing shakeup at Tracy.
Coppola says he pulled in the second income while trying to whittle down a huge bank of personal leave he had accumulated over years of working for the state.
Coppola split his workdays and vacation days between the two government agencies.
After a state investigation into his second job, 1,100 hours of personal leave were wiped off his records —enough leave for a six-month vacation.
Coppola claims in a lawsuit that prison executives harassed him when he refused to help them discipline a colleague, thus causing the investigation and the subsequent rescinding of his leave time. State lawyers counter that Coppola was incorrectly awarded too many vacation days.
Attorney Crone points out there is a shortage of doctors willing to work in high-stress jobs. “There are just not that many people who want to work at a prison or want to work in a jail. … So if you’re one who can do it or wants to do it, you might as well take advantage of what you can do.”
According to the Sacramento Bee, mental health professionals are in high demand across every level of government. Last year the state gave special raises of up to 24 percent to doctors in certain prisons as recruiting and retention incentives.
Coppola is currently on unpaid leave of absence from his prison job in Tracy and is working more often for Alameda County. When he retires, he will receive pension benefits from both state and county entities.