Editorial: OT pay out of whack at City Hall

SHARE Editorial: OT pay out of whack at City Hall

Follow @csteditorials

When a Chicago cop whose base pay is $86,000 earns more than $123,000 in overtime — for a total paycheck of almost $210,000 — somebody’s a miserable manager.

We can’t knock the cop. We have no reason to believe Officer Timothy A. Walter did not work every hour of that OT.

But we can knock the Chicago Police Department and City Hall for letting it happen. There is simply no way Officer Walter was not one very tired cop, his energies and skills depleted, at the tail end of those very long weeks. And there is no way a good manager resorts to such measures to solve his staffing problems, no matter what limits may be imposed by a union contract.


Follow @csteditorials

As Fran Spielman and Chris Fusco of the Sun-Times reported last week, ten Chicago city employees made more than $100,000 in overtime last year, most of them more than doubling their salaries, and the city spent a total of $240.4 million on employee overtime in 2014. That’s a 21 percent increase over the year before. Thirty other city workers, including 12 police officers, picked up more than $80,000 in OT.

City Hall’s legitimate partial excuse is that the city is hard up for revenue, making it all but impossible to hire more full-time police officers. It is less costly to resort to OT to meet the city’s fluctuating policing needs. But when overtime pay flies out the window at this rate, the city ought to revisit the idea of hiring at least some additional officers.

Spielman and Fusco’s findings hint at what might be a larger problem — an uncreative City Hall management culture that relies too much on OT. When the Sun-Times’s reporters asked about the overtime pay, they heard a lot of questionable excuses.

The Fire Department put the blame on a high number of retirements in recent years. They didn’t see that coming?

The water management department put the blame on the need for extra equipment repairs during a particularly cold winter. This is Chicago, not Tallahassee.

And the city’s 911 call center blamed an increase in the volume of calls due to the same severe weather.

Good managers look for efficient long-term solutions.

Consider, for example, how City Clerk Susana Mendoza three years ago slashed OT by half, saving more than $100,000, by creating a system in which vehicle stickers expire on different dates all year long, rather than all at once in mid summer. That eliminated a summer rush for stickers, reducing the need for OT.

Follow the Editorial Board on Twitter: Follow @csteditorials

Tweets by @CSTeditorials

The Latest
The list of players who had a sub-70.0 passer rating at this point is dismal. Fields still has time, but it’s not endless.
How well do you know how the Cubs and Sox did from June 21 to Sept. 22?
The gun industry and its allies for too long have helped to spread carnage while ducking responsibility.
The commuter agency is replacing the ornate portal with a new and accessible entrance as part of a $48 million station upgrade.
Providing help is what ought to be done in a fair and equitable society. Politicians should affirm the principle of government assistance when and where needed.