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O.C. deputies are still racking up exorbitant amounts of overtime

In one pay period since an audit was ordered, 61 exceeded the limit of 48 hours. Employee burnout remains a concern.

August 28, 2008|Stuart Pfeifer | Times Staff Writer

Despite an ongoing audit of overtime spending within the Orange County Sheriff's Department, deputies continue to work exorbitant amounts of overtime and county and department officials remain concerned about employee burnout.

The Times reported in May that two-thirds of Orange County deputies -- boosted by thousands of dollars in overtime pay -- earned more than $100,000 in 2007.

Acting Sheriff Jack Anderson ordered staffers to identify employees working excessive overtime, and John Moorlach, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors, called for an audit of sheriff's overtime spending.

In the two months that followed, employees exceeded the department's overtime limit more than 100 times, according to department reports. Department policy limits employees to no more than 48 hours of "planned overtime" per two-week period, with exceptions for breaking crime or important investigations.

No deputies have been disciplined for working excessive overtime, a department spokesman said.

During the two-week period that ended July 17, 61 sheriff's employees worked more than 48 hours of overtime, running up a combined 594 hours above the limit.

Deputy Troy Feely, assigned to the Lake Forest station, worked 76 hours of overtime during that two-week period, filling in for colleagues on vacation, injured on duty and in training.

At the Theo Lacy Jail in Orange, Deputy Jerrald Van Wyke worked 62 hours of overtime while filling a vacant position and covering for a deputy on vacation. One wing at Theo Lacy, budgeted for 40 employees, is staffed entirely by deputies such as Van Wyke working overtime.

"It's something we're concerned about, obviously, because of the fatigue factor and the burnout factor," said sheriff's spokesman Damon Micalizzi. "Overtime is something that's a necessary component in the business of public safety. . . . You don't just punch out because you're at 48 hours of overtime."

Last year, 27 deputies were paid more than $75,000 in overtime, a figure that could have been reached only by exceeding the overtime limit every week of the year. The top overtime recipient, investigator Theodore R. Harris, was paid $221,000 in 2007 -- $120,000 of that in overtime.

Concerned by those figures, Moorlach asked Steve Danley, the county's performance audit director, to study whether the department should hire more deputies to reduce the amount of overtime that deputies work. Danley said Wednesday that he expects to finish that report next month.

Mario Mainero, chief of staff for Moorlach, said his office hopes that Sheriff Sandra Hutchens takes steps to reduce the number of deputies working extreme amounts of overtime.

"We would certainly hope that the current sheriff's administration takes a look at the data with an eye toward seeking a resolution as soon as possible," Mainero said. "Excessive overtime over the standards can affect job performance, and this is an issue of mutual concern to the Sheriff's Department and to us."

During the two-week period that ended July 17, deputies worked more than twice as much overtime as they had in any of the previous three two-week periods, an increase that spokesman Micalizzi blamed partly on the typical spike in deputy vacations during the summer.

The twice-monthly reports on overtime spending will help supervisors better track employee overtime, he said.

"If the data showed somebody abusing overtime, this would help us determine if that was the case and allow us to say, 'Hey, don't do that anymore,' " Micalizzi said.

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stuart.pfeifer@latimes.com

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