Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

L.A. County sheriff's deputies got massive overtime in violation of rules, audit finds

December 22, 2009 |  7:36 am

Hundreds of L.A. County sheriff's deputies racked up massive amounts of overtime, according to a new audit that said some of the extra work violated county rules and may have hindered the deputies' performance.

L.A. County Auditor-Controller Wendy L. Watanabe's office found that 348 deputies between March 2007 and February 2008 worked more than 900 hours of overtime -- the equivalent of an extra six months of full-time work.

County auditors found that the agency lacks overtime policies and rules that limit cumulative overtime and that even in non-emergency situations, overtime is often not pre-approved by managers.

“Employees who work significant amounts of overtime may not be physically/mentally capable of performing their jobs,” Watanabe wrote

The audit report completed Friday was made public over the weekend by County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. The Sheriff's Department exceeded its overtime budget 104% on average in each of the last five fiscal years, the report said. The department needs to reevaluate its overtime budget that on average was $82.5 million more than planned in each of those years sheriff's managers flouted work schedule rules, the report said.

Fourteen of the top 20 overtime earners in the department repeatedly violated rules prohibiting excessive double shifts and six strung together more than 12 consecutive days of work, the audit found.

Sheriff's Department timekeepers, who are supposed to note such violations, rarely flagged them, according to auditors. Overtime was not the department's only problem, the report found. A small sampling of employees on sick leave found that nearly a third were overpaid, and a review of 15 industrial accident cases found that overpayments were made in nine cases because of department actions.

Bonus pay was also a problem, with a quarter of 60 bonuses lacking the required paperwork, the audit found. Sheriff's Department officials in a reply to the report noted that much of increase in overtime occurred as the department in 2005, 2006 and 2007 tried to cover for new positions as it reopened extra jails. The department hired 1,200 deputies from July 2006 to 2008. 

In response to the report, Sheriff's Department officials agreed that tightened management of overtime was needed and said that the department is already dramatically cutting spending this year.

Officials said that in some cases, deputies working long hours were assigned to the department's tactical weapons team, narcotics unit or homicide bureau, which typically respond to unplanned events.

--Richard Winton