One Los Angeles Department of Transportation supervisor nearly tripled his annual salary by claiming $155,319 in overtime. Another department employee claimed 261 hours of work during a two-week period. Seven employees claimed more than 2,000 hours of overtime — about the workload of one fulltime employee — in a year.
So says the office city Controller Ron Galperin, which today announced the results of an LADOT audit.
The LADOT is the department reviled for its overpriced parking tickets, often doled out to paycheck-to-paycheck apartment dwellers by overzealous traffic officers.
So your blood should be boiling. Now consider that there is no talk of terminations or prosecution.
Galperin's office says that, after its Fraud, Waste and Abuse Unit received a tip about allegedly ridiculous overtime pay at the Traffic Paint and Sign section of the department, his auditors started to look closely at those employees, 93 percent of whom claimed overtime last fiscal year.
Traffic Paint and Sign workers generally conduct striping and install signage after roads are repaved.
The overtime for Traffic Paint and Sign workers amounted to $3.3 million for a recent fiscal year, the controller's office said. The average employee of the section got a whopping $48,100 in annual overtime, the controller's office says.
Keep in mind that the median individual income in L.A. is $27,749.
"We’re looking at spiraling costs and a climate that practically invites abuse," Galperin said. "I urge DOT leadership to remain watchful and determine whether additional staffing might be more cost-effective than overtime."
Soon after auditors began asking questions, the overtime claims subsided, Galperin's people say. And the overtime bonanza happened before the appointment of LADOT general manager Seleta Reynolds.
We have begun to put into action the audit's recommendations: to strengthen our overtime policies to eliminate confusion; to create an online overtime request and approval system; and to right-size our overtime budget to meet expected day-to-day operational labor costs required to keep our streets safe.
It looks like the employees are being let off hook, however.* Galperin says that, because documentation is wanting, it would be hard to determine whether or not workers actually performed the claimed overtime work.
Indeed, the audit notes that "one might reasonably conclude that at least some of the employees in the Traffic Paint and Sign section were committing payroll fraud."
Ya think? Like, possibly, allegedly in the case of a 261-hour, two-week work marathon claimed by one employee?
Galperin maintains that "sufficient evidence" is lacking for any effort to turn this over to a criminal prosecutor.** Headlines were generated. Outrage was inspired. But justice was swept under the rug. Easy peasy.
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Too bad you can't as easily rip up a parking ticket and forget that ever happened.
*A spokesman for the LADOT confirms that some supervisors were transferred to other duties following the overtime revelations.
**The results of the audit were sent to the L.A. City Attorney's office for its consideration, a move that is customary for all audits, a spokesman for Galperin said.