By the end of the month, 30 Nassau police officers are expected to have earned more than $100,000 each in overtime this year as the cost of extra police pay exceeds $69.9 million — the highest annual county overtime bill in recent memory, according to County Comptroller George Maragos.
Last year, 13 officers earned $100,000 or more in overtime, records show.
Nassau also is likely “to break another glass ceiling,” Maragos said, by paying eight active officers more than $300,000 in total compensation this year. That does not include severance pay, which can boost retiring officers’ earnings by hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Final police overtime costs are projected to be nearly $13 million over budget in 2016 as Nassau continues to struggle with deficits, the comptroller said.
Maragos sent a letter to County Executive Edward Mangano, Acting Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter and Adam Barsky, chairman of Nassau’s financial control board Monday, warning that unchecked overtime shows a need for “better oversight and better assignment” of work hours.
He recommended the county hire outside experts to review current practices and recommend new policies for granting overtime, which is now “heavily skewed towards a relatively small number of police force members who also tend to be the highest paid and eligible for retirement.”
He said 90 percent of the highest overtime earners “are also just three years from full retirement or eligible for full retirement.” Nassau’s 2,300 active police officers have collected a median $22,300 in overtime so far this year, he said.
Overtime pay boosts final pension benefits.
Krumpter, who has attacked past Maragos audits as “flawed”, fired back Tuesday. “This particular report demonstrates the Comptroller’s total lack of understanding of police operations and the Nassau County police labor contracts,” Krumpter said. To apply the same overtime rules to “top earners who are investigating homicides is lunacy.”
Krumpter complained that Maragos had not discussed his analysis with the department and accused the comptroller, who has announced plans to run for county executive next year, of having an political agenda.
“This is just another demonstration of the gross incompetence of the comptroller,” Krumpter said.
Mangano defended the department: “Nassau County is one of the safest large suburban counties in the nation due to our well-trained and dedicated police officers as well as the fact that this administration refuses to compromise public safety.”
He said the 2017 budget authorizes the hiring 150 police officers and 81 public safety personnel who “together will reduce overtime.” Mangano has pleaded not guilty to federal corruption charges unrelated to the budget or police overtime.
Barsky said through a spokesman, “Police overtime is always a source of concern. The county clearly has to do more to manage the issue.”
Maragos said he did the analysis because “police overtime has been a recurring issue for the seven years I’ve been in office. Year after year, the police department has been running over budget with its overtime. This year in particular, given the fiscal and budget challenges that the county faces, we wanted to take another look.”
Maragos said overtime “seems to be out of control. Contrary to managing and trying to reduce overtime, It’s going in the opposite direction.”
The county legislature’s independent budget review office earlier this year reported police overtime had not dropped since the county spent a then-record $64.7 million in 2012 because Superstorm Sandy.
Last year, the county spent $66.4 million on police overtime — $14.4 million more than budgeted. Next year, the county has budgeted $56 million for police overtime.
Krumpter said officers are not interchangeable. Besides homicide investigators, top earners historically worked in highway patrol, which receives over $1 million in grants annually to enforce DWI and other traffic laws.
“These are places that nobody else can do their work,” Krumpter said.