BY DANNY MONTEVERDE
New Orleans bureau
December 22, 2012
New Orleans — As the Civil Service Commission prepares to vote in the coming months on two sets of proposed changes to emergency overtime rules for some of the city’s highest-paid officials, Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux is urging the body to consider a third option: compensatory time.
Staff of the Civil Service Department have proposed preventing overtime pay for unclassified employees who make more than $100,000 a year, unless a declared emergency lasts more than two weeks. The Landrieu administration has proposed to cap those employees’ days at 12 hours, which they said would essentially eliminate the need for overtime.
The issue about revising the overtime rules arose during Hurricane Isaac, when the city spent more than $5.1 million. Six of Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s deputy mayors and the city health director, who each earn more than $150,000 on average, collected large overtime checks that cost more than $100,000 combined.
Since those employees are unclassified — meaning they are appointed, rather than hired through the Civil Service process — they are generally ineligible for overtime pay.
A 2010 amendment to city rules, however, allowed them to earn overtime during declared emergencies.
“The awarding of overtime to executives may have been deserved, but it was expensive,” Quatrevaux wrote in his letter to the Rev. Kevin Wildes, Civil Service Commission chairman. “The rule change proposed by the CSD staff will simply restore the status quo ante, and perpetuate the problem the administration tried to overcome with overtime pay.”
Quatrevaux wrote that the staff recommendation ignores the fact that some jobs and emergencies require high-ranking employees to work “irregular and unpredictable” hours for which they should be rewarded.
“Compensatory time is a more efficient use of City resources than awarding overtime pay,’’ the IG wrote.
Wildes has said that he wants to review best practices from other cities before he and the other commission members make any changes to the existing overtime rules.