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Nassau OT costs in 2012 rise due to Sandy

Nassau County Department of Public Works employees clear

Nassau County Department of Public Works employees clear sewage tainted debris on Barnes Avenue. (Nov. 13, 2012) Credit: Charles Eckert

Nassau's employee overtime bill increased almost 15 percent last year compared with 2011, largely to deal with superstorm Sandy, according to county records and officials.

The tab rose to $97.5 million last year, compared with $85 million in 2011, according to data from the Nassau comptroller's office. County officials said many employees -- particularly law enforcement and the Department of Public Works -- worked additional hours in November and December as part of the county's response to Sandy and its aftermath, including the nor'easter several days later on Nov. 7.

County Executive Edward Mangano is seeking $18.9 million in overtime reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state as part of the Sandy aid package, officials said. Administration officials said if Nassau receives its entire Sandy aid request, its net overtime expenses for 2012 will be $78.6 million, 7.5 percent less than in 2011.

But even if the county does get the full amount, it still will be $8.7 million over budget in 2012 overtime, records show.

Nassau has been grappling with budget deficits for several years, although Comptroller George Maragos said the county ended 2012 with a surplus. Two recent court decisions -- one against a state control board's authority to freeze county wages and the other denying Nassau's move to shift the expense of property tax refunds to towns, villages and school districts -- could cost the county a total of $160 million if upheld.

"Overtime costs incurred due to Hurricane Sandy will be reimbursed by the federal and state governments," Mangano, a Republican running for re-election, said in a statement. He cited "strong administrative oversight and taxpayer conscious policies" for holding costs and "resulting in significant savings for our residents."

Suffolk County spent 9.7 percent less in employee overtime last year than in 2011 despite Sandy, officials said. The county incurred $65 million in overtime in 2012, compared with $72 million in the previous year. County Executive Steve Bellone credited new limits on approvals of nonemergency overtime. Nassau sustained significantly more damage than Suffolk during Sandy.

The bulk of the 2012 overtime bill in Nassau was generated by police. Legislative Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said Mangano had "mismanaged" the department and could reduce overtime by adding a new class of officers to replace retiring personnel.

"It's simple math and this administration does not get it," Abrahams said.

The county will have a new class of officers later this year, said Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin.

Of the top 100 overtime earners last year, 92 worked for the police department, records show.

Police employees earned $64 million in overtime last year, compared with nearly $52 million in 2011. The police department is seeking nearly $15 million in Sandy reimbursement.

The top 10 overtime earners all were police. Five Nassau police officers earned more than $100,000 in overtime last year -- including one who made a total of more than $300,000 in overtime and other pay.

That was police Officer Gary Renick of the Fourth Precinct in Hewlett, who had the most overtime last year of any county employee -- $150,115.91. With his $151,334.95 in salary and fringe benefits, he earned a total of $301,450.86, records show.

Samuel Ferrandino and Michael Lambert, highway patrol officers, ranked second and third in overtime, respectively. Ferrandino earned $135,209.14 in OT while Lambert took in $117,743.26. Fourth Precinct Officer Rubens Edouard earned $107,634.90 in overtime, while breathalyzer technician James Laurelli got $104,515.70 in OT.

First Deputy Commissioner Thomas Krumpter called the police overtime costs an "anomaly" caused by Sandy. He said that otherwise overtime has been decreasing because of tighter oversight and the consolidation of police precincts.

"The department manages overtime costs aggressively," Krumpter said. "Every hour of overtime in the police department is justified."

The five officers, Krumpter said, are among the most aggressive in making DWI arrests and also worked long hours after Sandy. Police employees receive time-and-a-half for every hour worked beyond their normal patrol.

The department declined to make available for interviews any of the top police overtime earners.

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