Christian Schneider

Author, Columnist

Working Overtime in Robbing Taxpayers

It often seems like the editorial boards at Wisconsin newspapers and their news divisions are inextricably linked.  You see a news article one day, then coincidentally see an editorial the next day arguing for whatever point of view you were supposed to glean from the news article.

But on rare occasions, it seems like editorial and news divisions within the same paper exist on different planets.  Take, for example, the outstanding Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story by Patrick Marley that showed up on Sunday which exposed the abuse of overtime by state correctional officers.  Time and time again, the Journal Sentinel editorial board attempts to convince us how higher taxes are necessary as a means to a better quality of life.  Yet, as Marley explains, the only quality of life being served by taxpayers in this overtime scam is that of the workers themselves.

From the article:

On every day he was scheduled to be off that month, he came in for an overtime shift. On two of those days, he worked double shifts.

But within days of each of those extra shifts, the sergeant called in sick. In all, he claimed four sick days that month. That meant he got hefty paychecks because of overtime, but still had time off.

That month wasn\’t unusual for the sergeant, who often volunteered for extra shifts. On 17 occasions in 2006 he called in sick shortly after working on days that he otherwise would have had off. He used almost four weeks of sick leave that year and cleared $117,764 with overtime, making him the state\’s fourth-highest-paid officer in 2006.

The scam is easy to explain – you merely use your sick time on days you weren\’t scheduled to work, and which qualify for overtime.  That way, you get paid time and a half for hours you never worked.  And taxpayers pick up the tab.

Of course, this heist was explained by this delicious quote:

Officers say there isn\’t widespread abuse of the system and note they work stressful jobs in institutions that are understaffed. They blame state officials for adopting laws that put more inmates behind bars without providing the funding necessary to hire enough officers.

Right… it\’s the state\’s fault for making them earn time and a half for hours they don\’t work.  And it\’s outstanding that they use understaffing as an excuse for not showing up for work.  Wouldn\’t it make more sense for them to be complaining about understaffing if they were actually required to show up to make their time and a half?  Instead, their actions seem to argue that the Department of Corrections has too much money, if they can swindle taxpayers that easily.

This report comes on the heels of a Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance report that shows Wisconsin pays their public school teachers 50% more than the national average in benefits.  It continues to be clear that throughout government in Wisconsin, taxpayers are footing the bill for things that don\’t educate a single child or keep criminals behind bars.

2 Comments

  1. They must fix this overtime scam. They know how, they must do it.

    And then they must go after the state legislators who double-dip, inappropriately report “per diems,” and take campaign money from industries they regulate. That’s bribery and payola. Which is worse?

  2. Nancy Ashmore

    May 6, 2008 at 9:48 am

    I agree that there is a scam going on, and it needs to be controlled. But I think the writer is drawing the wrong conclusion as to the amounts. The way the article is written, the officers are actually working the hours that they get time and a half; the time they are taking off sick would be their regularly scheduled shifts. If they called in sick, even on an overtime shift, they would only get sick pay at the normal rate.

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