Posted at: 10/30/2012 4:25 PM
Updated at: 11/13/2012 5:55 PM
By: Beth Wurtmann
ALBANY - State prisoners are thwarted from escape by fences and razor wire. But your tax dollars? They're making a quick getaway, when it comes to overtime.
Just consider what a nurse at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility raked in last year alone. More than $115,000 in overtime, in addition to a base salary of about $58,000.
When we totaled up what the top ten overtime earners at the state Corrections Department pulled down? Taxpayers doled out a whopping $789,000.
"It's still very, very high. It's unacceptable, and by having managers deal with the problem on the agency level, that's how we're going to reduce that out of control overtime in the state of New York," said Bronx Senator Jeff Klein.
Klein chairs a Task Force on Government Efficiency, and said he knows that at secure facilities like prisons, some overtime is necessary. However, he believes hiring more people is justifed.
"I think we can still recruit high quality nurses at their base salaries without having to pay them large amounts of overtime," Klein said.
In documents NewsChannel 13 obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, overall overtime at 'DOCCS' edged down three million dollars over two years. But Commissioner Brian Fischer turned down our request to talk about it, telling us two years ago that a nursing shortage has put him in a bind.
"I'm not going to close down an infirmary, I'm not going to close down a security post. So it's not mismanagement it's managing within the structure that I'm given. And right now the structure is kind of tough," Fischer said in 2010.
But is it so tough today, that overtime is the still the answer?
"Certainly if there are emergency situations, nobody's saying there will never be overtime. But it does seem that in some agencies it does seem like a matter of course rather than looking for effective alternatives to be more efficient," said State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.
DiNapoli has been calling on state agencies to monitor and reduce overtime more closely, to make sure it's justified. Just like New Yorkers are watching their wallets.
"One of the things that really needs to be looked at is if you hire a few extra people can you reduce the over time costs? Do that cost benefit analysis," he said.
NewsChannel 13 put that very question to the Corrections Department repeatedly: have they studied whether it's cheaper to hire more employees than to keep paying so much overtime?
They declined to answer.
However, a spokesman with the State Department of Budget said that for the first time in a couple years, new corrections officers are being trained in 17 classes statewide with 67 recruits/class, which will fill some job openings.
Here are the top ten overtime earners for 2011:
1. Matthew Mercy, Nurse, Bedford Hills, $115, 373 O/T; $58,469 salary
2. Eddie Josey, Corrections Sergeant, Sing Sing, $83,797 O/T; $75,686 salary
3. Diane Dirienzo, Nurse, Wende, $79,499 O/T; $58,468 salary
4. Terrance Davis, Nurse, Fishkill, $78,215 O/T; $58,468 salary
5. Lystra Forbes-Cooper, Nurse, Bedford Hills, $76,802 O/T; $58,468 salary
6. Barbara Furco, Nurse Admin, Sing Sing, $72,051 O/T; $64,764 salary
7. Rowena Salmon, Nurse, Bedford Hills, $71,954 O/T; $58,468 salary
8. Richard Moss, Corrections Sergeant, Sing Sing, $71,860 O/T; $68,922 salary
9. Christopher Pinker, Corrections Lieutenant, Sing Sing, $70,974 O/T; $93,692 salary
10. Kenneth Baldwin, Corrections Lieutenant, Coxsackie, $69,021 O/T; $93,692 salary
If you questioning government spending in your community, let the Waste Watchers know. Send a tip to: email@example.com