Metro Government ran up nearly $35 million in overtime costs in 2018

Photo via Metro Department of Corrections website

The second-highest paid Metro Government employee in the 2018 calendar year was George Manley, who made a total $187,922, just below Louisville Metro Police Department Chief Steve Conrad.

George who?

Manley was not the director of any Metro Government agency, nor even in one of the top 25 leadership positions of the department he worked for. His annual salary was not even anything spectacular, as it was just shy of $55,000 last year.

However, due to bringing in an astounding $129,396 in overtime pay last year as a sergeant with the Metro Department of Corrections, Manley’s total take-home pay was more than $26,000 larger than the third-highest paid city employee. City records through the first quarter of this year show that Manley has already received $35,153 of overtime pay and $54,067 in total pay, which puts him on pace to perhaps eclipse his 2018 amount and become the city’s most expensive employee.

While Manley’s compensation is the most extreme example, he is not alone among city workers who have received eye-popping totals of overtime pay in recent years, as a handful of city agencies pushed Metro Government toward spending nearly $35 million on overtime costs in 2018 alone — all while the city is trying to figure out how to fill a $35 million budget shortfall looming in the next fiscal year beginning July 1.

So how is possible that the city can spend this much on overtime pay, whether that be one city jail employee like Manley or $35 million across all departments?

The answer mostly lies in public safety departments of the city like Corrections, LMPD, Louisville Fire and Emergency Medical Services, which have struggled in recent years with a coinciding demand for increased services and the ability to retain overworked employees in difficult jobs within departments full of vacant positions.

Metro Corrections Director Mark Bolton | Photo by Joe Sonka

Asked by Insider Louisville about the overtime spending issue and the individual case of Manley, the spokeswoman for Mayor Greg Fischer forwarded a two-page statement from Corrections Director Mark Bolton.

In the case of the Department of Corrections, its prison population has skyrocketed in the past three years along with job vacancies, leading to management forcing employees to work long overtime hours. Coupled with the difficulty of recruiting and retaining those overworked employees, the ones that stay are guaranteed extra pay for those overtime hours through their labor unions’ collective bargaining contracts — which starts to add up.

Bolton stated that Corrections has 475 budgeted sworn positions with 73 officer vacancies — double the number of vacancies from just two years ago. He added that with the jail being a 24/7 operation requiring a minimum number post positions to be filled every shift, the collective bargaining agreement allows Corrections officials “to fill the vacancies through the use of overtime, voluntary or forced.”

A review of city employee salary records shows that of the $34.5 million in overtime payments by the city last year, these four departments — along with MetroSafe — made up over 83% of those costs, or $28.8 million, in the 2018 calendar year. That amounts to an increase of over $9 million in overtime costs in those departments in just three years, since 2015.

Statistics via Louisville Metro Government’s employee salary database

While the total overtime pay of Fire and EMS remained relatively stable from 2015 to 2018, those figures dramatically increased with LMPD, MetroSafe and Corrections.

The bulk of the increase in overtime pay over this three-year period came from LMPD, which nearly doubled to $9.7 million by 2017, before falling to $9.1 million last year. MetroSafe also doubled to $1.9 million by 2018, but Corrections had the most significant leap, more than tripling from $1.5 million in 2015 to $5.1 million last year.

Once again, a look at Manley’s increase in pay over this three-year time period sheds light on just how much overtime costs have skyrocketed.

In 2015, Manley, then an officer, made a salary of over $42,300 plus $3,465 in overtime pay, coming to a total payment of $45,782. He was promoted to a sergeant the next year, which not only brought a nearly $8,000 raise to his salary but overtime payments of nearly $62,000.

Manley’s overtime payment leaped again to $90,893 in 2017, and then to $129,396 last year — 37 times higher than what it was just three years earlier. By 2018, his total payment from the city had quadrupled to $187,922, putting him only behind LMPD Chief Conrad.

(*2019 figures are through the first three months of that year. “Other” indicates reimbursements for expenses and programs.)

In addition to his nearly $10,000 salary raise this year for being promoted to lieutenant, Manley has already been paid $35,153 in overtime through just the first quarter of 2019 with a year-to-date total of $54,067 — putting him on pace to eclipse Conrad.

To put this in more perspective, Manley as a sergeant was not only paid $42,000 more that Corrections Director Bolton last year, but also more than the department’s deputy chief, assistant director, three majors, six captains and 14 lieutenants ranked above him.

Fellow Corrections Sergeant Samuel Green also came close to surpassing Bolton in total pay last year, making $77,207 in overtime pay — the second most of all city workers — and total compensation of $134,291, ranking him at No. 20 among all city employees.

Of the 16 city workers with the highest overtime payments last year, 10 are either Corrections officers or sergeants.

(“Other” refers to reimbursement of expenses and programs, state training payments and allowances for items such as clothing and equipment)

Metro Corrections also had the largest increase among departments when it comes to the percentage of total payments to employees that are made up of overtime pay. In 2015, overtime only made up 6.3% of employees’ total payments, but that figure steadily nearly tripled to 18.1% in 2018 and is up to 18.7% in the first quarter of this calendar year.

Statistics via Louisville Metro Government’s employee salary database

MetroSafe’s percentage of overtime payments doubled to 17.3% from 2015 to 2018, and while Fire and EMS remained steady, their percentage was much higher than other departments, with overtime costs regularly eating up over a quarter of their total payments to workers.

Regarding the abnormally high overtime pay of Manley, Bolton’s statement indicated that Corrections was forced to open the antiquated jail above LMPD headquarters due to prison overcrowding in the past two years, an unbudgeted request that required five overtime slots each shift. Due the terms of their collective bargaining agreement, Manley’s seniority allowed him to grab those shifts and dramatically increase his pay.

An older jail cell in the Louisville Metro Department of Corrections. | Photo by Boris Ladwig

“(Overtime) is governed by the union contract, which calls for more tenured, highest seniority members, like Sgt. Manley, to be offered OT first,” stated Bolton. “He and others have volunteered for a significant number of overtime shifts, and the OT rate is 2 times the hourly rate once 56 hours/week is reached. (Hours worked over 40/1.5 hourly rate; hours worked over 56/2.0 hourly rate.)”

Bolton added that the collective bargaining contract “does not allow for a master list that would permit overtime to be spread evenly among sworn staff regardless of tenure. The union also rejected a Metro Corrections request to make OT over 56 hours rotational.”

Tracy Dotson, the president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 77 that represents Corrections workers, told Insider that Manley — who is his brother-in-law — regularly worked 80 hours per week, taking advantage of his seniority to work as much as he can when others want to stay home with their families.

As for Bolton’s idea of spreading out overtime shifts among workers so that no one employee like Manley accumulate so many hours, Dotson dismissed the need for such a move, arguing that the city would still be paying for those shifts if it was someone besides Manley.

Bolton said that his department is “taking steps to recruit and retain employees and season employees” along with a committee focused on workplace engagement, noting that its officers “perform specialized work that requires both physical and mental fitness.”

Just like other public safety agencies that are having the same problem with recruitment and retainment, Bolton noted that their efforts “are compounded by today’s low unemployment rate, which means employers do not have a robust labor pool from which to hire new employees.”

Dotson countered that the city has not spent enough on the front end to recruit and retain Corrections workers, which has led to a vicious cycle of officers being forced to work more hours and driven to find other work, while those who remain rack up overtime and cost the city more in the long run.

The union president rejected the notion that Manley was gaming the system to make nearly $130,000 in overtime pay last year, saying that this is the system that city leaders have created by their inaction.

Dotson also called out Metro Council members who voted against a recent proposal to raise new tax revenue and avoid most of the $35 million in looming budget cuts, saying that those who voted against it “voted to keep paying George Manley $180,000.”

This story has been updated with comments from Dotson.