Audit reveals Henrico's top overtime spenders

By Andy Jenks - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - Henrico County's overtime bill is growing, and a new audit indicates that not everyone's telling the man in charge.

When a tree is blown over, or  the neighborhood is covered in snow, the overtime clock starts ticking.

Henrico County spent $10.9 million on OT last year, with almost all of it going to five departments: Division of Police ($3.4m), Sheriff's Office ($3.1m) , Public Utilities ($1.6m), Division of Fire ($1.1m), and Public Works ($830k). The five departments accounted for 92% of Henrico's overall overtime expenditures.

Leon Johnson is a deputy county manager.

"Counties are cities are trying to get by with fewer and fewer employees," Johnson said.

Fewer employees, but more citizens...and, 24-hour-a-day needs that don't stop on weekends and holidays.

Sheriff Mike Wade runs the county jail.

"So if somebody gets sick, you have to fill the position. Somebody takes vacation, you have to fill the  position," Wade said.

The audit's biggest issue, though, is not that all this overtime is being spent, but that certain employees are making far more of it than others.

Henrico has a policy: if you make more than 25% of your annual salary in overtime, the county manager, Virgil Hazelett, must know about it and approve it. But the audit revealed a breakdown in communication.

"He [Hazelett] simply was not notified as he should've been, and we've corrected that," Johnson said.

At the Sheriff's Office, 29 people made at least 26% of their salary in overtime last year, Five made at least 50%, far exceeding the guideline. But there, it comes down to who wants the extra hours.

"You've got a choice of doing two things. You gotta force everybody to work. Or you can allow the people that  want to work, to do it," Wade said.

Law enforcement is virtually guaranteed to spend heavily on overtime, a reality that county management is unlikely to change.

Other noteworthy findings from the internal audit:

  • Fewer employees are making large amounts of overtime in 2010 compared to 2008.
  • In May 2009, one Public Utilities employee earned 104 hours of overtime in one 14-day period
  • In May 2009, one Sheriff's Office employee earned 77 hours of overtime in that same period.
  • Some staffers in various departments worked overtime to ensure overtime for other employees was processed correctly.

In 2003, Henrico County spent $5 million on overtime, a number that has grown annually leading to expenditures of $10.9 million in each of the past two fiscal years.

We asked the question: if you're spending almost $11 million on overtime, why not instead use that money to hire new people? It's not that simple, says the county. In another tight budget year, Henrico is cutting positions, not adding them. Paying overtime is still a better option.

The county policy does not prohibit large amounts of overtime to individuals, as long as the county manager approves it.

The top overtime earners were not included in the audit.

To view the full audit, click here.

Copyright 2010 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.