They patrol our highways, escort prisoners in court and serve and protect. It turns out some of the men and woman at the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office are also working extremely long hours.
“We’re at the point now where we’re at the bone,” said Sheriff David Clarke.
Clarke sat down with the I-Team the week of April 14, 2014. The I-Team had some questions about the excessive hours and pay deputies were making in overtime. When asked how dozens of deputies were making more in overtime than their base salary the sheriff responded.
“Because we have one officer working for two,” explained Clarke.
Through open records the I-Team obtained the 2013 payroll report. It shows deputies racked up thousands in overtime. In many cases, the overtime was enough to cover another base salary. The records show some made $40,000, $50,000 and even $72,000 in overtime in one year.
“That is a lot of overtime but they have to work the overtime because I have to get the work done,” said Clarke.
The sheriff argues cuts to his budget and a reduction in staff have forced his 279 officers to stay on the clock.
“Because you don't have the personnel whenever someone calls in sick, whenever someone gets hurt....guess how I have to replace that with over time,” said Clarke.
The I-Team also discovered another overtime issue. It involves an overtime grievance filed by the Milwaukee Deputy Sheriffs’ Association. The case was based “solely with voluntary overtime” at the county jail.
The arbitration sued the county after Clarke only allowed corrections officers to get overtime and excluded deputies. In July 2013, Milwaukee County silently paid a $370,000.00 settlement to the deputies. Every deputy got a check. Those payments ranged from $250.00 to $25,000.00. They got paid even if they didn’t work a minute of overtime.
“That's this collective bargaining environment. You need to have a talk with that arbitrator. I suggested the county appeal that decision,” said Clarke.
The settlement and overtime did add up in 2013. One deputy with a base salary of $64,000.00 made $78,000.00 in overtime, $24,000.00 from the settlement for grand total of $166,000 in one year.
“The average person sees that much money going to someone who is meant to serve them and they are right to say what am I getting for that,” said County Executive Chris Abele.
Abele admits this much overtime is troubling. But he questions if all the overtime is really due to the sheriff’s claim that he’s short staff. Nine months ago the sheriff’s placed his deputies alongside security guards at the courthouse entrances. Taxpayers already pay $1.5 million dollars to have security guards in place.
“It sure looks like a waste of money. That’s not my way of a great way to spend overtime,” said Abele.
But Clarke insists the deputies at the entrance are needed.
“They’re providing an armed security presence because I’m not going to allow a weapon to get through that security check point,” said Clarke.
For now taxpayers will keep paying the overtime until the two sides reach an agreement. The sheriff wants an additional 134 deputies to cut down on the overtime. But Abele said the sheriff can hire as many people as he wants as long as it’s within the budget.