Are Vallejo City Employees Working Hard, or Working the System?


Overtime is in overdrive in Vallejo driving wages over the edge as city workers clock huge hours and huge additional pay.

By Robert Schussel, Ph.D

Purpose
To provide an update to prior VIB reports about the cost of overtime being generated by the various departments within the City of Vallejo.

Background
In 2012 $4,046,097 was spent on overtime. 85.6% ($3,463,429) of the overtime was generated by public safety (includes Police Department Communication Operators and Supervisors).

For 2013 overtime increased to $5,654,633 which is a 39.8% increase over 2012.

The percentage spent on Public Safety overtime in 2013 increased to 89.2% from 85.6% in 2012.

Spread thin or CASHING IN 1

Caveats
1) Individuals who were given Employment Separation Payouts and had relatively small base pay in 2013 were eliminated from the overtime analyses. These individuals had retired or left employment with the City and had only worked part of the year. In most instances the amount of overtime they worked was minimal. Twenty one (21) of these individuals had worked in the Police Department.
2) The median (50th percentile) rather than the average is reported for overtime pay as the overtime distributions were highly skewed. For VPOA the median value was significantly lower than the average value.
3) The City of Vallejo verified that the highest overtime wages were correct.

Findings

1) The total amount of money spent on overtime in 2013 ($5,654,633) was 39% higher than for 2012 ($4,046,097).

2) Public Safety (including IBEW Communication Supervisors &Operators) consumed 89% of the TOTAL monies spent on overtime in 2013, up from 86% in 2012.

3) VPOA members now earn 58% of the TOTAL overtime budget. One of the reasons for the increase was the large number of VPOA members resigning (and leaving early) or retiring in 2013 – (21 employees). Most (9) of the replacement new hires only worked part of the year.

4) 2013 overtime costs increased 51% for VPOA (Police) members and 44% for IAFF (Fire) members.

Spread thin or CASHING IN 2
5) The average and median amount of overtime pay earned by Police Officers (who had worked most of the year) was more than double the amount earned by members in the other bargaining groups. Public Safety (VPOA, IAFF and Communications Operators and Supervisors) accounted for 89% of all of the OT wages paid out.

6) Among IBEW members the amount of overtime earned by the 20 individuals who were employed in the Water Treatment Plant or as Communication Specialists was 46.8% of the entire amount of OT earned by IBEW members.

7) 2013 overtime wages for VPOA members is equivalent to at least 15 full time Police Officers.

 

Average/Median Overtime wages earned by employees who worked most of the 2013

# Employed Most of yr. AVERAGE amount OT \MEDIAN
VPOA

75

$43,077

$35,533

IAFF

69

$20,426

$15,974

IBEW

176 with OT

$5,469

$2,173

IBEW Communications and Water Treatment

20

$21,671

$20,921

CAMP

60

1 person

 

8) In 2013 sixty employees (60) earned $30,000 or more in overtime wages. This is a 43% increase from 2012. Seventy three percent (73%) were members of VPOA. The overtime ranged from 21% to 181% of their Base Wage. One Police Corporal worked about 2,500 hours of overtime which is equivalent to working an extra 48 hours per week for the entire year (52 weeks). See below:

wages_ot

Note: Most members of IAFF work 56 hour weeks (two 24 hour shifts and 8 additional hours). To make it easier to compare the number of hours and pay for Overtime worked by an IAFF member, the OT was converted to the equivalent of a 40 hour work week. For example if a fire fighter worked 28 hours of Overtime it was converted to 20 hours of a 40 hour week–( 40/56= (.714) times 28 hours=20 hours) .

 

 Comments
With the large number of Police Officers leaving the City of Vallejo it was not unexpected that the amount of overtime (51% increase) would increase in the Police Department. What is surprising is that there was also a 41% increase in overtime for 2013 in the Fire Department. No mention of the significant increases in overtime was made public by the City Manager nor does it appear that there was much of an attempt being made to try to control the large increases in overtime being earned by some employees. Even members of City Council do not appear to be aware of the large increases in OT.

What I find just as troubling is the extremely high amount of overtime worked by some individuals each of the past three (3) years. There are too many Public Safety employees who are trying to get as much overtime as possible despite potential issues involved with fatigue etc. About 24% (82/348) of all of the employees with overtime had overtime pay that was 25% or more of their base salary. According to a City Official, significant overtime issues exist if an employee’s overtime is 25% or more of their base salary. With the large amount of overtime that has been occurring the question becomes: Is there any abuse or fraud?

Finally, despite the rhetoric that he/she (who worked excessive OT) is a good police officer/fire fighter etc. studies on working long hours find that efficiency declines and accident proneness increases significantly. It’s time to stop employees from being allowed to work excessive amounts of overtime for their safety and that of the public.

 

Final comments
There will always be a need for some overtime in Public Safety due to emergency situations, required court appearances, training, illness etc.

However it’s time that the City Manager and the Police and Fire Chiefs do a better job of distributing overtime among their staff. These department heads are putting their employees and the public at risk.

Below are suggested steps to be taken by the City Manager.

1) The City Manager should make a report to City Council and the public detailing the overtime in 2013 and discussing what is occurring with overtime in 2014 and why. Consideration should be given to the steps being taken to reduce overtime as well as how the City Manager will limit excessive overtime being earned by some employees.

2) The City Manager should give regular updates on overtime use etc. until the overtime problems are under control. The updates should include the long term steps being taken to reduce overtime including hiring new employees.

3)No employee should earn per month overtime pay that is greater than 25% of their base salary. Each month the Fire and Police Chief should provide the City Manager with a list of all employees who accrue more than 25% of their base wage in OT and the reason why.

4) As part of contract provisions, a reasonable limit should be placed on employee overtime. Current contracts do nothing to limit the employees’ ability to work the system and push overtime beyond all sensible limits. Massive overtime that ignores employee and public safety, as illustrated above are not sensible.

5) Scenarios that allow employees to game the system need to come to a stop. One common example of employees padding overtime would work as follows:

Currently employee A can call in sick and employee B fills in with overtime (at 1.5 times base pay). Then employee B calls in sick and employee A fills in and gets overtime. Thus, for the week each employee earned 6.5 days of wages (30% more pay), but each only had to work 5 days. In other words, by using up sick days, employees gain 30% more pay in the process.

The employee contracts should be revised so that all employees except Fire Fighters (@ 56 hours per week base) must work 40 hours at regular pay within a week before they can start to collect overtime pay. Sick leave or vacation pay should not count towards the 40 hour requirement. Fire fighters should be required to work 10 shifts at normal pay in the current month before they are eligible for overtime.

Bottom line: Does it best serve the interests of the public to have safety workers, such as firemen/paramedics and police officers working as much as 60- 80 hours per week on a constant basis? Can these employees really perform their demanding jobs at a high level for so many hours without becoming a risk to themselves and the public? Long standing and accepted industry studies clearly indicate that these practices are highly inadvisable.

 

NEXT UP –OTHER WAGES AND SEPARATION PAY

 


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'Are Vallejo City Employees Working Hard, or Working the System?' have 7 comments

  1. November 3, 2014 @ 6:13 pm decentamerican

    A truly eye-opening factual article Marc….. Thank you.

    For sometime, these figures were out for the public to see. While the ‘extra work’ above and beyond the 8 hrs is appreciated, the amount of money spent on it at the expense of all of us and perhaps at the expense of additional normal staff is ridiculous and very questionable……No manager with a public sense and conscious could explain this well. Shameful.

    Reply

    • November 6, 2014 @ 2:36 pm decentamerican

      HERE IS A FACTUAL ANALYSIS FROM A TRULY ACCOMPLISHED COMMUNITY FINANCE EXPERT. Permission was obtained to re-produce the person’s email for public benefit. Thank you for publishing.
      ==========================================================================================

      I don’t think there is any way to explain this very complex situation to the People. And, quite frankly, I think that would be a waste of time and energy.

      The amount of overtime paid is a symptom of how well or how poorly the City is run. Overtime is a necessary expense for every well run business or City. Excessive overtime is a symptom of something that could be out of control.

      Vallejo has had excessive overtime since at least 1993. The consistent abuser has been the fire fighters. It’s a symptom of the terms of the fire fighter contract and how the union members have learned to milk it. The union is in control and has no desire to change things.

      A change will only comes when a Fire Chief has the strength to enforce reasonable overtime rules and the backing of the City Manager. It also depends on where correcting the overtime expense abuses is on the list of priorities. It won’t change just because the City Council demands it, the City Manager orders it, and the Fire Chief makes it the Department policy. This abuse has gone on for more than a generation. To change it will either require the union to decide that it must change or that the Fire Chief with the support of the City Manager decide that the change will happen and they devote at least ten years to change the practice. It won’t go away overnight without the union support, and that, is unlikely.

      Go to http://www.AskTheRothConversionGuy.com.
      Ask a question.

      Reply

  2. November 3, 2014 @ 8:14 pm Ok

    Is the below scenario a complicit documented fact or creative thinking from an unscrupulous mind? If it is factual (?) publishing the names would give credibility, otherwise it rates with Paula McConnells missives bordering on yellow journalism.

    5) Scenarios that allow employees to game the system need to come to a stop. One common example of employees padding overtime would work as follows:

    Currently employee A can call in sick and employee B fills in with overtime (at 1.5 times base pay). Then employee B calls in sick and employee A fills in and gets overtime. Thus, for the week each employee earned 6.5 days of wages (30% more pay), but each only had to work 5 days. In other words, by using up sick days, employees gain 30% more pay in the process.

    Reply

    • November 3, 2014 @ 8:53 pm Bong Hit

      We need to pay overtime. It’s cheaper than hiring more employees. Yes there are isolated examples of overt abuse but the vast majority of OT costs come from the structural nature of the labor agreement. You have to be able to do the math on these contracts to parse out the full breakdown of where the money goes. Very few people can do this and I can almost guarantee there are none in Vallejo with this skill.

      Reply

  3. November 3, 2014 @ 11:22 pm wharf rat

    Do these Employees punch a time clock , seems that those who are working DOUBLE SHIFTS , NEED TO BE INVESTIGATED …
    Some were Caught Electioneering on the department dime , and , probably attempting to spike their retirement … Our CITY is not a welfare department , we have many challenges , certainly not the , future enrichment of , VPOA who has , highjacked our
    City .. Numbers do not lie ….. Serve and protect , has been forgotten , serve yourselves seems to be the new mantra ,,, while it can be acknowledged that the VPD deals with some , serious crap , this is well known by anyone signing up to Serve …. The overtime in some cases is obscene , and not sustainable by a fiscally challenged City as we are in this day and age ….
    Accurate accounting of hours worked , must be ENFORCED , when Employees rake in over 80 hours a week , month to month
    some splaining needs to be done ….. Are there time cards , activity reports , time clocks ,, or any validation of their activities
    or even legitimate doccumation of legitimate services provided to the Community that pays their freight …………………..

    Reply

    • November 4, 2014 @ 8:19 am Ok

      Warf,
      Your questions are something the new Chief should address. As to your allegation about about “electioneering on the department dime”, even if it did happen (?), it would not “spike” retirement pension whether it was OT or not. In either case, that is something else for the new Chief to determine.

      Reply

  4. November 4, 2014 @ 9:21 am Clarke Johnston

    Outgoing Chief Kreins noted the time-consuming nature of the hiring process, including interviews, back-ground checks, and then after hiring, a probationary period working with a training officer. At first inspection, this would seem prudently smart, to insure the hiring of the best possible candidates, weeding out those who don’t measure up to high standards. But. Yup, there’s the But. How has this lengthy process, combined with smaller budgets, played into this overtime situation? Any “normal” private business, unencumbered by contractual bindings, would cut overtime right off the bat when red ink starts to flow. Public service unions wield entirely too much power in California, a situation unlikely to change after today’s election, which will, without a doubt, bring near or record low voter turn-out. Heck, the average schlub on the street probably doesn’t even know that the union-beholden Governor is even running for re-election. (Don’t even get me going on pretty-boy Gavin Newsom, who’s admitted he hates Sacramento; just not the pay, perks or goodies that come along with the office) Even after bankruptcy, Vallejo finds itself struggling with bloating budgets, with labor/personnel costs leading the red tide. I suppose this might all be “somewhat” palatable if the VPOA’s relationship with Vallejo wasn’t so darned toxic, witness the latest legal action tendered in court against the city. While some like to bash low-income folks for their “entitlements”, often fairly and with good cause, one has to, as some point, if they’re not blind or stupid, note the same sense of entitlement within the Police Department. I have experienced this attitude first hand, and find it frankly not just annoying and rude, but oblivious to the service justly due to it’s citizens: The crime stopping needs of the very city the personnel are sworn to protect and serve. That phrase rings rather hollow lately, especially when one can’t get help when calling 911, when help IS needed. These overtime revelations, and also the litigious nature of the VPOA highlight Vallejo’s Itchy and Scratchy relationship with the officers union. That in no way undervalues the work our officers perform, daily, on our scruffy streets. Vallejo is chock full of guns, drugs, hookers and pimps, zombie street denizens, robberies, ad infinitum. The list is long, the challenges to keeping order immense. The battle against crime, however, is still costing us taxpayers too much, and the ongoing legal battles undercut a lot of the goodwill that it justly earned. Having open house on Amador is a good start. Working with neighborhood watch groups also good. But: Particularly with the communications department, some house-cleaning is in order, bringing in some “Best Practices” is long overdue.

    Reply


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