Gabe Bullard contributed to this report
Louisville Metro Councilman Jerry Miller, R-19, says Mayor Greg Fischer’s administration knew Metro employee overtime was a problem, but ignored calls to address it over the summer.
The mayor’s office launched an investigation this week into the payroll system after learning at least 550 city workers were earning $15,000 or more in overtime annually. At least three have earned more than $50,000 in overtime and doubled their salaries.
Miller says during the city’s budget hearings earlier this year, council Republicans addressed the growing cost of overtime but received little cooperation from the mayor’s office.
“This is not new information. This information was reviewed in detail during the budget hearings. I would have to assume that it has to do with the shortfall that was announced maybe a month ago. We were going to be about $6 million short on the budget this year,” he says.
A spokesman for the mayor says the administration began reviewing overtime policy and procedures over the summer once it was alerted by the council during the budget hearings, but kept things “under the radar” until it was announced this week.
Fischer sent a memorandum to the city’s chief financial officer and human resources director, who will review causes of overtime compensation to find ways to spend taxpayer dollars in a fiscally responsible way.
CFO Steve Rowland acknowledged the lower workforce is resulting in more overtimes, adding some compensation cannot be avoided but unscheduled overtime needs to be reined in.
Miller says city agencies are understaffed and workers are being stretched, but departments need to do a better job of managing current staff.
“We do need more people, but we need to manage the people we have better,” he says. “To say this is individual employees abusing the system is in my view un-defensible until you look at the management. What it tells me is we have a number of employees that if they’re asked to work overtime they just say yes. In some cases, they’re just trying to meet the needs of their supervisors.”
Local American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) President Anissa Brady says the mayor’s office should’ve known overtime pay was an issue.
“This is not an issue that just came up this year, this has been an ongoing issue,” she says, referring to past complaints about EMS overtime pay.
Brady says it’s easy to single out individual workers who have drawn thousands in overtime, but non-union managers should be scrutinized.
“They’re the ones who approve the overtime,” she says. “So it’s not like we just work overtime without approval. There’s a lot of issues he does need to look into.”
The fastest way to cut overtime costs—aside from stopping work altogether—is to hire more employees. But that could create a dilemma with labor. Brady says employees are often overworked, but many have come to rely on overtime. Solving the problem will require a balance between reducing extra pay and creating jobs.
“I would say hire more employees,” she says. “The majority of our members complain about not having enough help and needing help. I would say we need to hire more employees.”
Brady says she appreciates the mayor’s decision to look into overtime pay, and says AFSCME will have to review any solutions the administration puts forward before deciding whether to go along with them.
WFPL’s Phillip Bailey and Gabe Bullard discussed this unfolding story today on Here and Now.