THE WATCHDOGS: 18 Chicago city workers topped $100K in OT in 2016

SHARE THE WATCHDOGS: 18 Chicago city workers topped $100K in OT in 2016
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Police recruits are sworn in at a graduation ceremony in 2015 at Navy Pier. The police department accounted for the bulk of the city’s overtime pay. | Sun-Times file photo

Eighteen city employees made more than $100,000 in overtime in 2016 — most of them more than doubling their salaries, records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times show.

Another 476 city workers were paid between $50,000 and $99,999 in overtime, while 2,325 collected between$25,000 and $49,999.

In all, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration paid outa total of nearly$266 million in overtime last year, with one out of every four city workers making more than $10,000. Seven of every ten employees took home at least $1,000 in overtime pay, according to the data provided in response to a Sun-Times Freedom of Information Act request.

Topping the overtime pay list was Chicago Police Officer Timothy A. Walter, one of the police department’s most prolific writers of DUI tickets. Walter made $147,877 in overtime over and above his $93,240-a-year salary.

Walter has been City Hall’s king of overtime in previous years, but never before has his overtime pay reached the levels seen in 2016.

“Officer Walter’s overtime is also due to extension of tour and mandatory appearances for court cases,” police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said.

Thirteen other police officers joined Walter in taking home more than $100,000 in overtime last year, along with three employees of the water management department and one from the Office of Emergency Management and Communications.

Eight of the top overtime earners were not identified by name, but listed only as “sergeant” or “police officer.” City Hall said they weren’t named because they work asundercover police officers.

Three of those in the $100,000-plus club were identified as detectives — at a time when a severe shortage of detectives had triggered an abysmal clearance rate for homicides and shootings that’s still hovering around 25 percent. They are: Edward W. Heerdt, whose $130,537 in overtime amounts to 138 percent of his $94,584-a-year salary; Anthony F. Noradin, whose $126,343 in overtime was 129 percent of his$98,016 in regular pay; and Jose L. Castaneda, whose $106,376 in overtime pay exceeds his $94,584-a-year salary by $11,792.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, outgoing OEMC Director Gary Schenkel, OEMC Executive Director Alicia Tate-Nadeau on the call-taking floor of OEMC last March. Brian Jackson/Sun-Times file photo

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, outgoing OEMC Director Gary Schenkel, OEMC Executive Director Alicia Tate-Nadeau on the call-taking floor of OEMC last March. Brian Jackson/Sun-Times file photo

The only non-police officers in the $100,000-plus club were Ramona Perkins, an OEMC police communications operator who made $128,092 on top of a $75,240-a-year salary; water department operating engineer Kevin Chavez, $108,851 in overtime on top of a $98,675-a-year salary; operating engineer Jorge Vasquez, $100,365 in overtime over and above a $98,675-a-year salary; and assistant chief operating engineer Joseph Morabito, $102,632 on top of an annual salary of $108,534.

In all, the police department accounted for $143 million in overtime — about 54 percent of the city total. It was followed by fire ($50 million), water ($21 million), streets and sanitation ($14 million), aviation ($13 million) and OEMC ($11 million).

Police Board President Lori Lightfoot, who co-chaired Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Task Force on Police Accountability, said the police overtime numbers recorded in 2016 are a recipe for burnout and the poor decision-making that can come with it.

“It’s definitely concerning. That means that a single person is working an extraordinary amount of overtime. . . . Things like this are exactly the kind of issues that should be evaluated by the public safety” inspector general, Lightfoot said.

She pointed to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s decision to hire 970 additional police officers over the next two years above and beyond attrition. “There’s been a recognition that prolonged periods of significant overtime is not a viable strategy,” she said.

Molly Poppe, a spokesperson for the city’s Office of Budget and Management, defended the costly use of overtime.

“Public safety is a top priority of the administration, and we will continue to use overtime in support of public safety, as needed,” Poppe wrote in an email.

But she argued that the Emanuel administration “does work to manage overtime expenses” and that progress has been made to rein it in.

“Recent steps include filling firefighter vacancies in the fire department – which you saw the impact of those hirings on overtime expenses – and filling vacancies within the operating engineer crews at the Department of Water and Management,” Poppe wrote.

She noted that the budget office and the Department of Human Resources are working with 911 center chief Alicia Tate-Nadeau “to identify time and attendance processes to help address overt absenteeism and [Family Medical Leave Act] issues, which are large drivers of OEMC’s overall overtime cost.”

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The Sun-Times reported this month that the Chicago Police and Fire Departments wracked up $194 million in overtime in 2016, $72 million of it during July and November alone.

The spike in July — to $21.6 million in police overtime, more than double June spending — stemmed from a 60 percent surge in homicides and shootings that would ultimately prompt Mayor Rahm Emanuel to end years of retrenchment and propose a two-year police hiring surge.

Only $425,933 of the July overtime was tied to the Lollapalooza music festival, City Hall said.

The $29.9 million police overtime tab in November had more to do with the Cubs winning their first World Series since 1908. In all, the city spent $17.2 million on police overtime during the Cubs march to their first World Series title in 108 years.

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