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Overtime soars at elections office

December 05, 2007|Jack Leonard | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles County's election agency has punched a hole in its overtime budget every year for the last six years, racking up nearly $8.3 million in extra costs, according to a county audit made public Tuesday.

The Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk's Office spent nearly $27.3 million on overtime during the six years beginning July 2001 -- 43% more than the $19 million that was budgeted, the audit's figures show.

Registrar-recorder's officials said their staff has had to handle increased work from unanticipated elections, such as the 2003 recall election for governor and a special election in 2005. In addition, they said, the roaring housing market in recent years added more work for the agency, which also records real estate documents.

"I don't think that anyone is questioning that it was legitimate," said Dean Logan, the department's chief deputy. "But I do think that the reporting and projections [of overtime] certainly are in need of improvement."

The agency, Logan said, was able to cover its overtime costs using increased revenue from such sources as document recording fees.

Auditors also faulted the department for allowing some employees to continue receiving workers compensation after returning to the job.

And they criticized the department for hiring and promoting some workers over more qualified candidates, a practice auditors said could foster a perception of favoritism.

"It kind of sends the wrong message," said county Auditor-Controller J. Tyler McCauley.

Logan described the workers compensation cases as isolated but said the department has begun tightening up its rules on hiring and promotions in response to auditors' concerns.

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jack.leonard@latimes.com

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