In The News › Overtime abuse at S&WB?

Jul 27, 2010

Source: Fox 8 News

Filed under: Government Finance, Orleans Parish

Overtime abuse at S&WB?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Reported by Lee Zurik
Fox 8 News

Workers at the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board’s power generation and distribution site earned some eye-catching overtime amounts.

Steam Plant Engineers were the six highest overtime recipients, earning these numbers:

1. Cleaveland Butler: $93,000
2. Leo Beaulieu: $92,000
3. Kevin Burfect: $83,000
4. Lee Rogers: $78,000
5. Eric Peterson: $71,000
6. Shawn De-Jean: $67,000

Janet Howard of the Bureau of Governmental Research calls these numbers “shocking.” Howard says, “to have overtime at these rates is a red flag that something needs to be evaluated.”

Together with their base salaries and overtime amounts, these engineers are some of the highest paid city employees.

The second highest paid city employee last year is a Sewerage and Water Board steam plant engineer. Leo Beaulieu earned a base salary of $72,000, and after making nearly $92,000 in overtime and $22,000 in stand-by time, he earned a total of $186,000.

The third highest paid employee at the Sewerage and Water Board made most of his annual pay in overtime as well. Cleveland Butler made a total of $171,000. Butler had a base salary of $59,000, but made $93,000 in overtime and $19,000 in stand-by pay.

“When you have an employee making $171,000 when the base salary is $59,000, what is going on there?” said Howard. “That’s almost triple the base salary, (the) total salary. Something is out of whack.”

Allegations of Overtime Abuse

Sewerage and Water Board Executive Director Marcia St. Martin admitted to us in a recent interview the overtime expenses were high.

“Overtime is a significant expense for us,” St. Martin said.

St. Martin did not mention the allegations of overtime abuse that FOX 8 uncovered in some internal documents. Documents were sent by the boiler room operators at the steam plant to the agency’s budget director, St. Martin. The operators suggested that employees were “abusing overtime” and “still manipulating the overtime to enrich themselves in every way possible.”

A letter sent on April 22 alleges that four of the highest overtime earners are day watch on-call supervisors: Beaulieu, Butler, Kevin Burfect, and Eric Peterson. The letter alleges that the day watch supervisors have been picking up shifts instead of replacing another employee when a boiler room shift personnel takes time off.

The letter asks, “Why would you replace an on call day watch supervisor who is making triple the amount of money, plus the on call pay for coming out to work for a person that can be replaced by someone with the same job classification for less and without the luxury of the on-call pay? That’s not helping the Sewerage and Water Board Budget at all.”

Plan to Reduce Overtime

In a letter to FOX 8 last week, the Sewerage and Water Board said a meeting was held after that April letter. The Meeting concluded with a goal to reduce overtime, and to make sure overtime is fairly distributed. However, that may not have happened. Last month, the boiler room operators sent another letter, detailing the same complaints: a “scheme by the boiler room on-call day watch supervisors to maneuver and manipulate overtime.”

In an interview last week, St. Martin never let on that there were problems with potential overtime abuse. In fact, she commended the high overtime earners, but said she needed to get them some help.

“While we say thank you for doing a good job and thank you for being available, it’s not how we want to continue to the operation,” said Marcia St. Martin. She said the operation planned to add about 20 employees to help ease overtime costs.

Recurring Overtime Theme

The letter alleges this is not the first time there has been potential overtime abuse at the Sewerage and Water Board. In one letter, the boiler operator writes, “When the day watch supervisor overtime was cut down after years of excessive abuse- only then did they decide to manipulate overtime in their favor.”

Late last week the Sewerage and Water Board wrote to us they are “evaluating a change in management of the division,” and developing policies for oversight and fair distribution of overtime.

Jul 27, 2010

Source: Fox 8 News

Filed under: Government Finance, Orleans Parish

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