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Acting Comptroller: Towns Studied Used Improper Overtime Pay Authority

4-15-14

A new comptroller’s report shows that some municipalities are paying their leaders overtime and giving them comp time without the proper legal authority. Acting State Comptroller Marc Larkins told NJTV News Managing Editor Mike Schneider that 14 out of 30 towns studied did not use the proper authority for overtime and comp pay.

The findings were not referred to criminal authorities, said Larkins. He said that the towns were not following the technical rules and in some instances bordered on what Larkins says could be considered outrageous conduct. As an example, Larkins said that two situations were found where individuals were collecting both overtime and regular pay for working the same hours, which the State Comptroller’s Office thought was very egregious, as well as the extent of the payments, comp time, cash out and other activity. He said that it was “beyond the pale” but not criminal in nature.

Larkins said that not only were towns paying overtime and rewarding their executives with comp time, but there were no real controls over the accrual of that comp time. He said that individuals were found that were essentially approving their own overtime and comp time.

Larkins said that in some instances, people cashed out that overtime, rolled over the comp time, carried it forward and, in some instances, cashed out the comp time, so that was a major problem that needed to be reported to the citizens.

Studies started with 30 towns and included towns and county governments. From the 30, the State Comptroller uncovered that 14 towns had actually awarded their executives comp time and overtime in a two-year period, said Larkins. He said that of that 14, 10 of those towns did it without the proper authority. The procedure calls for officials to pass an ordinance, which would allow for the government body to give notice, it would allow for citizen input and comment on the proposed ordinance and a delay before the vote would actually take place, Larkins said. He said that a lot of towns were taking action by resolution, which was a one-time event and did not provide for the appropriate public input and transparency.

Larkins said that the State Comptroller’s Office review did not look into the motivation of why towns did this. He said that is why the office wanted to issue the report — to inform officials that they should be taking the action the right way, so that the citizens understand how their tax dollars are being spent.

The most surprising aspect of the findings, according to Larkins, was that there were no controls over the accrual of overtime and comp time and the situations where people were accruing or being paid overtime and normal pay for working the same hours.

“There are factors that we consider in most of all of our work when we identify the areas that we want to look at. There are certain factors that we evaluate to determine risk. While we didn’t know exactly what we would uncover,we did review information that led us to choose that universe of 30 towns,” said Larkins.