TULSA - We spent weeks looking at overtime for all City of Tulsa employees for the past three years and what we uncovered, even caught the mayor by surprise.
Our investigation found some employees still making almost double their salary, when you add in the overtime.
We found one employee who made almost $39,000 in overtime when her base salary is $45,000.
In fact, we found a dozen employees in the same department making $15,000 or more in overtime last year.
These employees answer your calls for help at the 911 Center. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in overtime begin paid out in a department that has some 70 employees.
"Yah, see there's something wrong there," said Tulsa City Councilor Bill Christiansen.
Councilor Christiansen says it's not a good way to operate a business.
"It comes down to management. I really believe that. It comes down to leadership in every department," said Christiansen.
We asked the 911 Center's supervisor, Ken White, about it being a management issue.
"No. I don't believe it's a management issue. We're looking at alternatives," said Ken White.
But even White knows there's a problem. After all, overtime is mandatory.
"Yes. I think any overtime is too much because I don't want people to have to work that. I don't want to have to say we have to hire overtime to get the job done we're supposed to," said White.
So how do you cut back? And how are other department's fairing?
To get some answers, we revisited some of the departments that had lots of overtime when we did our first investigation into City of Tulsa employee overtime more than two years ago.
At that time, airport security officers topped the list. One made $74,000 in OT alone. Since our story aired in November of 2008, the overtime has dropped off dramatically for that department, with only one officer making $10,000 or more in OT last year.
Here's how the head of the airport says they did it.
"We were using our law enforcement officers for traffic enforcement and that was taking a lot of time and effort, and we converted those positions to traffic inspectors so that allowed us to retain those positions and hire people to fill those spots and reduce our overtime," said Jeff Mulder, the director if the Tulsa International Airport.
Mulder says the airport didn't actually hire new positions. Instead, they just filled existing openings with positions to oversee traffic.
The officers say it's working.
"We do our job very well out here. We're still able to maintain the security of the airport," said Dan Fritz, an airport officer.
Another department that had lots of overtime in our previous story was the Tulsa Police Department.
Between 2009 and 2010 the department cut overtime by $1 million. Deputy Chief Dennis Larsen says they were able to do it by making some scheduling changes and strategically placing officers in areas where they are seeing crime trends.
But for the department that sends officers to the calls, its a struggle.
Supervisor Ken White says turnover is high due to the hours and stress and says there are a couple ways it could be fixed. He says one improvement could be increasing salaries.
"It certainly couldn't hurt. We would never say no to being able to increase that, that would be one thing is salaries. Staffing, the calls that we take, that's one thing that we'd like to look at and are looking at on ways to streamline what we're doing," said White.
The mayor has another idea, "One of the things we're looking into is the possibility of training people to do different jobs and so it could be where those dispatchers just have that one function. Well, if we were able to train other people to be dispatchers as well, their primary function might be in a different department doing a job, but they might be willing to be dispatchers for a certain amount of their time," said Mayor Dewey Bartlett, (R)-Tulsa.
It usually takes 12 weeks to train a dispatcher. Still, Mayor Bartlett says after what we showed him, his department will look into ways to cut back on overtime.
"It's a management question that we'll certainly be looking into that the department head or whoever the supervisor is needs to have some answers to those. So those are very good questions, which we'll ask and we'll find out, as well," said Bartlett.
"Overtime has always been an issue for me at City Hall. I'm glad you brought this to my attention. I hadn't seen those figures," said Christiansen.
As a result of our investigation, Councilor Christiansen plans on bringing up the overtime issue at an upcoming council meeting to find a fix. We'll keep you posted on what happens.
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