News 11 Investigates: Toledo's Overtime Abuse

Reported by Tim Miller email
Posted by Kate Oatis email

(WTOL) TOLEDO - In just the first three months of 2009, the City of Toledo has paid out $1,932,000 in overtime.

That appalls some people.

"Wow. There are folks that don't have a job, folks that are looking for work. That's a lot of money man," said taxpayer Mike Hayes.

"That seems a little excessive, especially in the economic period we're experiencing," said Toledo resident Dylan Adamson.

The top overtime earners:

  1. Carl Lerch, firefighter: $8,385
  2. Gary Schwanbeck, refuse truck driver: $8,179
  3. Bradley Weis, Toledo Police Lieutenant: $8,100
  4. Leonita Davis, senior communications operator: $8,038
  5. James Bruzda, Toledo Police Officer: $8,000

So, it looks like plenty of city workers are boosting their bottom lines during this major budget crisis.

The most overtime is being paid to several city departments, including just over $64,000 to water treatment employees; $68,500 to refuse collection; $356,000 to streets, bridges and harbor; $490,500 to police; and $756,000 to the fire department.

We showed these numbers to the city's finance committee chairman, George Sarantou, who says there are reasons for the overtime.

For example, Local 92 -- the firefighter's union -- has a contract with the city that requires 103 firefighters on duty at all times. When it falls below that because of vacations or sick days, they have to call in other fire personnel for overtime.

Sarantou predicts police overtime will probably get higher because 150 officers were laid off two days ago. He also says certain city workers have specific areas of expertise.

"For example, in the water department, we have one plumber available for the whole city and you've got one person who is going to respond to water main breaks and that; it does get very expensive," Sarantou said.

Lucas County workers are also getting significant overtime. Through the first three months this year, the county engineer-road maintenance department brought in $129,000; the sheriff's department almost $160,000; and the corrections center, more than $197,000.

One county commissioner found an explanation.

"It's a balancing act, and every elected official has to make that decision: What costs me more, to hire more employees or to pay overtime?" said Tina Skeldon Wozniak.

But with income and sales tax revenue plummeting, and city and county funds drying up, don't expect fixes like a new police and fire class or a sheriff's class.

If abuse is happening anywhere in the city, Sarantou says it has to be detected and eliminated.

"We've always scrutinized what we're spending on overtime, but in tough times like now, it's even more important to carefully review what divisions are charging the OT and is it really necessary?"