The city report which showed the Department of Public Works (DPW) spent $773,187 in overtime in June 2014 — causing a furor among city council members that led to some calling for a committee of the whole investigation — resulted from a bad calculation.
Instead public works employees took $183,693 in overtime in June 2014, according to city records obtained through an Open Public Records Act request. On Thursday, city officials told the Paterson Press the overtime for June 2014 was $167,435. This left a $16,000 difference between the two sets of numbers.
“Both numbers are correct,” said business administrator Nellie Pou on Friday afternoon. “Some of those employees were charged to a grant like Clean Communities that falls under DPW.” She said the $167,435 was the amount of overtime that was paid using funds from the city’s treasury.
Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large, who chairs the council’s finance committee, said he has yet to see any data other than the analysis that was completed by Julio Tavarez, 5th Ward councilman.
“It’s garbage in, garbage out,” remarked Morris about the inaccurate numbers provided to Tavarez. “His analysis was correct based on the data that was given.”
Pou said the report was completed by city staff members who are no longer with the municipality. The data was compiled under the auspices of finance director Anthony Zambrano by auditor Charles Scannella.
Zambrano and Scannella both retired on June 30th, 2014, said Pou. Scannella attributed the unusually large number to human error in Thursday’s Press report.
“An error was made based on what they’re giving us now, but the business administrator should have reviewed it with a number that alarmingly high,” said Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman.
Pou said she couldn’t verify the data because the finance employees who compiled and prepared the report had all retired. She said she took the data that was available, attached a cover letter, and satisfied then city council president Tavarez’s request for overtime data.
Sayegh called for an explanation on public works employees who are maximizing overtime pay. In some instances public works employees earned almost twice their salary by exploiting overtime.
“The report was erroneous so it wasn’t the administration’s fault or Tavarez’s fault,” said Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman, 2nd Ward councilman. “We reacted based on the report.” The reaction was fierce and continued to linger for months.
Many thought the now erroneous overtime number would implicate mayor Jose “Joey” Torres who took office in July 2014. Torres’ administration also refused to provide two-year worth of information dealing with the overtime for public works to Tavarez further fanning suspicions.
Akhtaruzzaman said the report shook a lot of people, but was relived it was an error and the city did not pay out the exorbitant sum in overtime. “I’m glad at the end it wasn’t the overtime it was error in the reporting,” he said.
Public works payroll – total amount of money public works employees earned through regular hours and overtime combined — for June 2014 was $813,418, according to city records.
The top five overtime earner that month were Steven Howe, $6,517; William Rodriguez, $6,268; Robert Statuto, $4,374; Joseph Mania, $4,288; and Imad Mowaswes, $4,050, according to city records.
Much of the overtime in June 2014 resulted from public works employees being at polling sites, decorating the city hall for Torres’ inauguration, and emergency boarding up of abandoned properties, according to city records.