Overtime Scandal Typical of Government

Sorry, PulseoftheCity readers, about yesterday. I had to take some personal time and a few of the other projects I’m involved in needed attention.

I guess I’ll have to make it up by working overtime, the word of the moment in local news. It’s jaw-dropping pathetic that Metro government has allowed this to go on for so long. That 10% of the 5,500 local employees are managed so inefficiently that they’ve been able to rack up $15,000 in overtime, and that someone made more than their $47K salary in extra pay?

Fischer should do more about the overtime scandal

Somebody’s head should roll, but Metro is being careful not to put any blame out there, especially on the employees who got the money.

I agree with Councilman Brent Ackerson, who sent out a statement on the topic: “This is just bad business in the way this is being handled. If this has been a problem for some time, and contracts haven’t taken this into account, then department heads should roll. The excuses have to stop, and we have to get a handle on these city expenses.”

Of course, this could only happen in government. No business concerned about the bottom line would operate this way. But it’s a routine way of doing business at Metro. Now, officials are playing a game of P.R., with the Mayor’s Office trying to appear to be cracking down by ordering a review, and Metro Council Republicans calling for their own investigation.

However, this isn’t some new problem uncovered by an open records request (at least that’s how WAVE-TV reported it coming to light). As Philip Bailey reported yesterday, council member Jerry Miller says he questioned the overtime costs during budget hearings earlier this year, but got no cooperation from the Mayor’s office.

Miller, to Bailey:  “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.”

So why did the Mayor act now? Was it, as WAVE claims, because of a media open records request? Would the policies have continued unchecked without the media report?

It reminds me of the story WAVE uncovered when it found Parks Director Mike Heitz bellying up to the bar at KT’s before driving his city-issued vehicle home. Once the city was alerted to the story by media, it took action and suspended Heitz.

Mayor Fischer is right to be doing something about the overtime issue, but ordering the review is not decisive enough. How about taking some immediate action, like requiring high-level approvals for all overtime. How about a temporary, flat-out ban? He could find a culprit, and at least suspend someone. There’s got to be some low-hanging fruit of someone who’s abused the system, and Fischer would do himself some good P.R. by doing something about this now.