Audit: 67 Durham employees made $10K+ in overtime last year. One claimed 1,400 hours.

An audit of overtime pay for Durham city employees found 11 whose combined salary and overtime compensation topped $100,000 and 20 who took home at least $85,000.

One employee whose combined salary and overtime pay in 2018 was $121,719, received more in overtime pay than salary, the audit says.

The audit conducted by the city’s Audit Services Department covers three years from 2016-18 and was completed in April. The findings will be presented Thursday during the City Council’s work session.

The last audit of overtime pay practices was conducted in 2013, when 25 employees earned more an $10,000 in overtime pay.

The current audit found 67 city employees were paid more than $10,000 in overtime compensation during the 2018 fiscal year. They accounted for about $1.2 million of the $3.9 million the city paid in overtime that year. Auditors found that 1,260 employees received some overtime pay in 2018.

The city has paid more in overtime in each of the past three years, since spending more than $2.5 million in 2016.

Auditors found one instance in the General Services Department where overtime hours were not in compliance with city policy, the report says.

Police, water departments

The audit says department management provided reasons generally justifying the overtime payments.

The Police Department had the most employees receive at least $10,000 in overtime pay with 28, while the Water Management Department was next with 11. These departments accounted for about 56% of overtime paid in 2018, the audit says.

Four employees in the Police Department earned more than $35,000 in overtime pay, including a sergeant, an investigator and two corporals. In all, 10 Police Department employees took home more than $100,000 in combined salary and overtime pay.

Most of the overtime in the Police Department arose from performing supplemental patrol duties, the audit says. Officers can sign up for the opportunities on a first-come basis, the report says. Overtime for crime analysts was a result of staff shortages, according to the report.

The audit found a majority of overtime in the Water Management Department came from emergency response and high-priority work that impacts customers.

Fairness questioned

A Fire Department facilities maintenance supervisor led all Durham employees by claiming 1,435 overtime hours. The worker, whose base salary is $59,589, was paid an additional $62,130 in overtime in 2018, auditors found.

Auditors determined the worker would have had to claim “approximately 27 hours of overtime each week for 52 weeks,” to receive the amount of overtime paid. They say this worker had 810 hours of overtime in 2016 and 1,288 overtime hours in 2017. They concluded this worker had “worked excessive overtime hours compared to overtime hours worked by other employees.”

No other Fire Department employee was among the 67 on the list.

Auditors questioned the fairness of allowing this worker to claim this amount of overtime.

“This specific situation generated concerns for the Audit Services staff regarding whether the practice of awarding overtime was fair,” the audit says.

They also were concerned about potential safety risks and if a lack of supervisory oversight existed that led to overtime hours claimed in this case, the audit says.

The Fire Department’s response in the audit says, “The Facilities Maintenance Supervisor has been allowed to work substantial overtime because the position supervised all of the logistic functions for the Fire Department.”

The position maintains all equipment and supplies for 418 Fire Department employees and 22 Fire Department facilities, the audit says.

“The Fire Department management contends that there are insufficient personnel on staff in order to complete all activities this position is responsible for,” the audit says.


Auditors made two recommendations regarding this position.

They said the Fire Department should see if other workers could be trained to handle some of the supervisor’s job duties and whether others are being given opportunities to work overtime. It recommended having the worker sign a statement documenting the regular work schedule so that only hours “after the normal work schedule are claimed as overtime.”

In an April 17 memo, Deputy Fire Chief Chris Iannuzzi wrote to Audit Services Director Germaine Brewington saying the Fire Department concurred with the recommendations.

The Fire Department recently hired another Procurement Technician who also will be trained in the care and maintenance of personal protective equipment, Iannuzzi said. The department said it also will explore training firefighter staff to perform that maintenance. The Facilities Services Supervisor also signed a statement of regular work hours to ensure only hours after normal work hours are claimed as overtime, he said.

Who gets overtime?

Exempt employees like managers are not eligible for overtime pay. Non-exempt employees earn overtime at one and one-half times their base rate of pay.

Overtime can be used to quickly respond to short-term changes in staffing or workload, the audit says. But “using excessive amounts of overtime to complete required tasks is an expensive way to run an entity,” it says.

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Joe Johnson is a reporter covering breaking stories for The News & Observer. He most recently covered towns in western Wake County and Chatham County. Before that, he covered high school sports for The Herald-Sun.