A big spike in overtime spending in the city’s Department of Public Works (DPW) in June 2014, just days before mayor Jose “Joey” Torres returned to office for a third-term, has city councilman Julio Tavarez demanding answers.
Tavarez, 5th Ward councilman, asked the Torres administration for documents relating to the $773,187 that was spent in June 2014, but business administrator Nellie Pou on Tuesday evening told the councilman those records were not forthcoming.
Tavarez sought documents that show approvals for overtime for DPW for each pay period going back two years, said Pou.
The business administrator said the difference between the current payroll system, Edmunds, and the previous, KVS, makes it difficult to put together a report. She also said the detailed data Tavarez is seeking, employee identification numbers and names, are “too voluminous,” and will require the administration to create a report.
“We’re not going to be creating that report,” said Pou. She also said some of the information is personnel records that fall within the administration’s purview.
The business administrator’s response irked Tavarez. He said salary information is public and the administration can withhold employee IDs if it wishes.
Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman, suggested redacting out the employee IDs.
“Overtime is out of control,” said Tavarez. “It’s like pulling teeth for something that we should be keeping track of all the time.”
Tavarez said the city council has a responsibility to understand how money is being spent. “Overtime is a grave concern, it’s a large expenditure, and we need to get handle around it,” added William McKoy, 3rd Ward councilman.
Pou said the administration is willing to provide overtime reports that it has provided in the past which include numbers, departments, and percentages.
“At what point in time is the administration going to take look to see what happened?” remarked Tavarez. “Even if it wasn’t under your watch wouldn’t you want to what happened, how $700,000 was spent in June of 2014?”
Tavarez called the administration’s response to his request “ridiculous.”
“Something happened,” said Tavarez. He said most of the employees who were there at the time are still there. He said the administration is trying to “hide” the data.
“We’re not hiding anything,” retorted Pou.
Tavarez called for the formation of a Committee of the Whole to investigate the overtime expenditure.
“We do have a fiduciary responsibility to ensure money [that’s] being spent is being spent wisely,” said Sayegh.
Sayegh said the last time the council sought specific employee information it received it after subpoenaing the records from Torres’ predecessor Jeffery Jones, whose administration never recovered following an overtime scandal and subsequent investigation by the council.
Torres on Wednesday morning referred questions to Pou.