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New London employees feed at the overtime trough

By David Collins

Publication: The Day

Published July 20. 2012 4:00AM

It's remarkable how many people who work for the City of New London are paid more than the mayor.

There is a solid waste crew leader in the public works department, for instance, who made more than $100,000 in the fiscal year that just ended. More than a third of that, $36,239, was overtime.

I am not sure exactly what a solid waste crew leader does, but it couldn't possibly entail the responsibilities of the city's mayor, who is paid only $86,000.

(I know. I know. A lot of you may be thinking the crew leader at least probably does his job well.)

Actually, when you include overtime, a surprisingly large number of city employees took in more than $100,000 last year. The police chief was paid more than $190,000 in the last fiscal year, about the highest compensation for a city employee.

Indeed, the police are the big earners by far, apparently not just because they have guns. Many get paid overtime for traffic duty for which the city is reimbursed.

One of the city's recently promoted police captains made more than $142,000 last year, $62,457 of it in overtime. Indeed, there were a lot of police officers paid in the six-figure range last year.

Goosing up overtime is a classic trick for police officers getting close to retirement to boost their pensions, which are based on the final years of pay.

Firefighters, too, were paid a lot in overtime last year. We know from all the recent news stories about reopening the firefighters' contract that overtime, not always paid at time-and-a-half for firefighters, is almost mandatory for many, to keep up with union staffing requirements.

I learned a lot about overtime collected by city employees from a Freedom of Information request made recently by Avner Gregory, a member of Lower Our Taxes, a community group that helped petition the new city budget to referendum.

The vote on the budget is set for Sept. 18. I can't imagine how the budget, with its 7.8 percent tax increase, won't sink like a stone at the polls.

Voters, before registering their budget nays and yeas, might certainly be inclined to consider that the city paid out more than $3.3 million in overtime in the last fiscal year. That's a number creeping perilously close to 10 percent of the entire $42.3 general-government budget.

"It's legalized theft," Gregory told me the other day, when I ran into him on the street and he offered to share his freshly printed overtime spreadsheet.

He has also requested an accounting of retirement benefits being paid to all former city employees. That one is still pending.

I know some of the overtime is unavoidable. And some of it, in the case of police officers working for highway contractors, is actually reimbursed.

But a lot of it is unnecessary and would be quickly eliminated in any well-managed private company.

The secretary to the old city manager, now to the City Council, was paid more than $76,000 last year, $8,000 of it in overtime.

The general manager of the waste transfer station made $32,000 in overtime last year, boosting his total pay to about what the mayor makes. Another solid waste manager made $91,000, almost $11,000 of it in overtime.

There's money to be made in trash in the city.

A parks maintenance manager made more than $90,000 last year, almost $12,000 of it in overtime.

The city's accountants knew how to add up their overtime, too. One made more than $102,000, almost $18,000 of it in overtime. Another took in just over $100,000, almost $15,000 of it in overtime.

Even an equipment repair person collected almost $8,000 in overtime, for total pay of more than $65,000.

There are lots more examples, many pages of them, in fact.

Finding waste in the city budget, it seems, is as easy as making a FOI request.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

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