Overtime in Denver skyrocketed by nearly 23 percent in 2015, costing taxpayers as much as $8.6 million more than the year before, a Watchdog.org analysis of city overtime records found.
And at the same time, the city continued to hire employees in some of the departments that saw large increases in overtime.
For example, police overtime funded by taxpayers went from $2.4 million in 2014 to $2.9 million last year – a nearly 20 percent increase – but at the same time the city hired five new officers and 31 new civilian staff members, the database of overtime payments and the city’s budget shows.
Overall, the city hired nearly 400 new employees, budget figures show, and expects to hire an additional 266 full-time employees this year.
“I wasn’t aware of that,” said Councilwoman Kendra Black, who is vice chairwoman of the council’s finance committee, after Watchdog.org showed her the overtime figures.
Watchdog.org obtained a database of overtime payments to all city staff, showing the city paid $47.1 million in overtime last year. In 2014, that total was $38.5 million. About $10 million of that total is reimbursed for police either by Denver International Airport or groups that hold events like festivals and marathons. But that reimbursed amount has remained fairly steady over the past four years.
By contrast, the state saw modest increases in overtime over the past four years with overtime increasing less than $500,000 between the 2013-14 fiscal year and the 2014-15 year.
The Watchdog.org analysis of overtime payments shows: The sheriff’s department court deputies went from $4.9 million to $6.4 million; Public Works resurfacing overtime went from $325,000 in 2014 to $484,000 last year; Police operations support services doubled from $72,000 to $148,000; overtime for police recruits jumped from $330,000 to $804,000; overtime in fire district 7 doubled from $671,000 in 2014 to $1.298 million last year.
From 2014 to 2015, the sheriff’s department saw an increase of 48 uniform and civilian staff, public works added 120 employees, and the fire department hired about 10 people, the budget shows.
IN OTHER NEWS: City employees feasting on tax dollars.
And some employees made nearly enough to just about buy the median Denver home with several years of overtime.
For example, Sgt. Richard Louis Coisman, who made $98,000 in base salary last year, and Officer Joseph P. Flynn, who earns a base of about $83,000 a year, each took home nearly $300,000 in overtime over the past four years, the city database shows. Much of that was likely reimbursed overtime; Coisman works on the special operations unit and Flynn works at the airport.
Police spokesman Sonny Jackson said the department officials knew they would need overtime to fill open spots as they were training recruits to fill them permanently. He also said an increase in protests and a spike in crime in the Ballpark neighborhood required more staffing, but the department spent about $300,000 less than it budgeted for overtime.
“When we see a need, we fill it” he told Watchdog.org. “It’s about public safety.”
Three sheriff’s deputies – Jae Hyuk Oh, Jerry Louis Jones and Louis D. Martinez – each made about $250,000 in overtime over the past four years on top of salaries of about $71,000 a year. Jones, who booked the most overtime in the city last year with 2,120 hours, made $107,000 last year just in overtime, the city database shows.
The officers and deputies did not return a request for comment made through the department spokesmen.
The sheriff’s department, which has been the focus of jail abuse allegations, issued a statement saying the spending was necessary to ensure safety and the department expects to see OT reduced in future years.
“As we increase the number of deputies on staff with additional resources provided by the 2016 City Budget, we anticipate the need for overtime will be reduced,” the statement said. “A ‘mega-class’ of more than 80 deputies is currently being trained at our academy and will go a long way to filling our ranks.”
The city’s finance, fire and public works departments did not respond to requests for an interview about the overtime increases.
While Black noted that she did not have concerns about the increased overtime at this point, she would have administration staff explain the added expenses.
“I do think we need to have it presented at a finance committee meeting,” she told Watchdog.org after a meeting this month. “I will ask human resources to provide” the information.