Civil Service Commission gets report on overtime policy

Civil Service Commission members get report on overtime policy.
Civil Service Commission members get report on overtime policy.

New Orleans, La. -- A FOX 8 News investigation revealed that some executive-level city employees earned thousands of dollars more a week in emergency pay and overtime during Hurricane Isaac last year. And Monday the Civil Service Commission, which sets personnel policy, received recommendations for changing the overtime policy.

"If FEMA didn't reimburse the city, the city essentially... we would have had some serious layoffs," said Robert William Hagmann of the Civil Service Department.

He addressed the commission about the personnel costs associated with the storm.  In fact, he said FEMA reimbursed City Hall $4.6 million in personnel costs related to Isaac.

The FOX 8 investigation revealed that City Chief Administrative Officer and Deputy Mayor Andy Kopplin, five other deputy mayors, and some department directors collected more than $100,000 in emergency pay and overtime. On average, those staffers earn more than $150,000 a year.

According to the Emergency Overtime Pay Report released to the commission, high earners within city government made $5,373 a week with emergency pay alone, during the three-week emergency. With overtime pay calculated at double the rate, the amount jumps to $13,253 a week.

"We're not the most generous, but we're not the least generous, either," Hagmann said in addressing the commission members.

Still, commission members want changes. But the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents hundreds of NOPD officers, said cops at all levels sacrifice a lot during emergencies and deserve to be compensated for it.

"We believe that any officer, blue shirt or white shirt, who is out there during times of emergency should receive the overtime. The reason is quite simple -- our employees are doing work that is unique, doing police work, they're out there, they're patrolling rescuing people regardless of rank," said Raymond Burkart III, an attorney for the Fraternal Order of Police.

In light of the controversy over what staffers earning over $100,000 raked in during Isaac, the Civil Service Department recommends staffers earning more than $100,000 receive only emergency pay, not overtime.

"That person is going to be locked into $5,373 no matter how many hours that person would work," Hagmann continued.

According to the report, CAO Kopplin recommends restricting city department directors making $100,000, as well as deputy directors, to overtime at the straight rate.  And according to the report, they would earn $11, 283 a week under that scenario, if they work 12 hours per day.

The city's inspector general recommends no overtime pay for employees at that level, only emergency pay and comp time.

The FOP representatives who attended the meeting said such a policy would be a disincentive for new hires within the police department.  "They're actually on the streets, boots on the ground, doing the work necessary to serve the citizens and visitors of New Orleans during times of crisis.  They deserve to be compensated for the same," Burkhart said.

The report contained information on how other local governments and the state handle emergency pay and overtime.  In Jefferson Parish, for instance, executive level staffers do not receive emergency pay.  Instead they get comp time capped at 35 hours in a week for overtime hours, according to the survey done by the Civil Service Department.