14 News Special Report: Going Overboard on Overtime - Tri-State News, Weather & Sports

14 News Special Report: Going Overboard on Overtime

A 14 News investigation has found millions of dollars worth of comp time banked by employees of the City of Evansville.

City leaders say the city is exceeding federal wage and hour limits, but say this is a situation decades in the making.

Comp time issues were brought to light in a recent situation involving the Vanderburgh County EMA. Records obtained exclusively by 14 News show about 800 of the city's 1,200 or so employees have comp time banked. Some with three, four, even five times the limit set in federal labor laws.

"It's an issue that has certainly been on our radar the last several months," Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke said.

On a Tuesday afternoon, inside the mayor's office conversation quickly turned to the EMA.

"It's an issue that supervisors know they're expected to manage to," Winnecke said.

In September, Mayor Winnecke requested and received the resignation of the former director of the Vanderburgh County Emergency Management Agency.

"The amassing of 1,100 hours, equating to almost $18,000 in comp time for a single individual without justification, is extremely troubling," Winnecke said in that September interview.

When 14 News asked the mayor if he was aware that there were other city employees that had as many as 2,400 hours of comp time accrued when the issues with the EMA came up, he said, "I did not know that there were numbers that high."

Records show current Evansville city employees have banked more than 110,000 hours of comp time, worth nearly $5 million.

Administrative Services Executive Director George Fithian says 51 city employees, 50 in police and fire are currently above comp time limits of 480 hours enforced by the Department of Labor.

"It's not a concern that keeps me up at night. I don't think it's a concern that should keep any citizens in the city up at night," Winnecke said.

"Ultimately, it's the taxpayers that are paying for this and they should be concerned about it," said John Friend. 

City Council Member and Finance Committee Chairman Friend says his concerns are with potential comp time payouts.

"If that individual retires or left the job today, the city would be required to write a check for the full amount because of the approvals granted by the agency leadership," Winnecke said in that September interview. 

"When you go into a comp time type of arrangement, it's like an IOU. Really it is. You start running those numbers up, even though you're not paying it at that moment, it becomes a liability," Friend said. 

Across the Ohio, the City of Owensboro takes a different approach.

"We don't have anything that where a non-exempt employee can bank time," said Danielle Woodward, Owensboro's Personnel Director.  

Woodward says overtime hours are paid each paycheck and not allowed to build year to year.

"Either way you're going to have to pay it one way or the other. You either pay it at the time it's earned or you pay it when they leave," Woodward said.

Nearly a third of all comp time accrued in the City of Evansville is in the fire department, which is under contract.

Records show one employee has banked more than 2,400 hours of comp time, worth $54,000. That's enough for that worker to take paid time off now and not return to work until January, 2015. 

"I can't blame anyone for doing this because we allow it," Friend said.

"We're managing it on a case by case basis. It is a number that's out there and looks impressive and maybe even scary to some people, but I would tell you that it's extraordinarily unlikely that we would ever have to write a check or write checks totaling that amount at any given time," Winnecke said.

All city employees have earned this comp time and will at some point either be paid out or use it as paid time off.

An interim director is currently overseeing the EMA until a replacement is found.

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