The second of a three-part series
PATERSON, NJ – City police officer Virginio Formentin has climbed the overtime ladder over the past three years.
A detective known as Gino, the veteran officer collected $25,654 in overtime in 2010, a total that ranked him 17th among municipal employees, according to payroll records provided to PatersonPress.com through an Open Public Records Act request.
Formentin’s overtime pay increased by more than double in 2011, when he rang up $54,360, a figure that moved him into fourth place on the city’s list for that year, the records show.
But that was nothing compared to 2012. During the past year, Formentin received $112,051 in overtime, putting him far above anyone else, the records show. The next closest overtime total for a Paterson worker was $63,197 and Formentin made 77-percent more than that. Formentin’s overtime haul exceeded his regular salary of $100,140, according to city records.
What did Formentin do to earn all that overtime? Paterson Police Director Glenn Brown said he can’t say because of the “sensitive nature” of Formentin’s assignment. Discussing details about what the officer’s work would jeopardize his confidentiality and put him at risk, the director asserted.
The increase in Formentin’s overtime pay reflects the overall increase in the city’s overtime spending. Over the past two years, it has risen by more than 60 percent, PatersonPress.com has found. The police department’s overtime spending jumped by about $600,000 last year, reaching $2.8 million. Here are the city's overtime payments for each employee for 2012 and for 2011.
Brown says that stems from a lack of manpower that has plagued the department after 125 officers were laid off in 2011. Even though the city rehired 37 of them last year, the director said subsequent retirements have offset the impact of that.
The City Council has been frustrated in its attempts to examine overtime in the police department. The council subpoenaed police officers to testify during its 2011 overtime hearings, but they refused to show up, citing the confidential nature of their work. That situation went to court and a judge decided the council members could not ask the officers specific questions about what they did to earn the overtime.
During their discussions on the issue, council members have asserted that they believe the police department’s management has not done a good enough job monitoring the overtime spending. Some said they saw Formentin’s six-figure overtime pay for 2012 as proof that the city’s law enforcement administrators have not reigned in overtime
“I don’t know how you can justify that in terms of the cost-benefit analysis,’’ said Councilman William McKoy, chairman of the public safety committee, when told by PatersonPress.com about Formentin’s $112,051.
Councilman Kenneth Morris said he had serious questions about the way overtime gets distributed within the police department. “The overtime is going to senior officers as opposed to the rank-and-file,’’ said Morris.
Four of the nine police officers who collected more than $40,000 in overtime had the rank of sergeant or above. Last year, 32 Paterson employees made more than $26,000 in overtime, roughly the equivalent of an extra $500 per week. Seventeen were police officers, 10 public works employees and five firefighters.
Brown said some of the highest overtime earners in the police department worked on special assignments with state or federal agencies under which the city was reimbursed for their pay. Citing the confidentiality of their work, he declined to say which officers those were. In an interview last week, Brown said he did not have numbers readily available on how much the city was reimbursed. When asked for an estimate, he said, “Now you’re asking me to guess and I’m not going to do that.’’
Morris’ complaint about the imbalance of overtime pay going to upper echelon employees is evident in the public works department. Nine of the 10 top DPW overtime earners are supervisors. In some cases, they made twice as much money in overtime as the rank-and-file workers did in regular salary.
Public works director Christopher Coke attributed that situation to a clause in the supervisors’ labor contract that requires one of them to get called in whenever five department employees are on overtime.
The city’s top overtime earner in 2011 was public works supervisor Lloyd Wisdom, who collected $59,853, the records show. In 2010, Police Officer Jose Garcia had the most overtime at $52,986.
Part Three Tomorrow: What is the city doing about the controversial overtime paid to municipal administrators?