Among city of Lodi employees, 82 earned more than $100,000 in 2012 — up from 30 in 2009. City officials say the difference is in overtime hours, especially among fire and police employees, which were rare in 2007 and 2008.
“For the city, overtime is cheaper (than hiring more staff),” said Councilwoman JoAnne Mounce. “I know that it probably looks terrible to have that many people making that kind of money, but they’re putting in the hours.”
The News-Sentinel requested the pay records as part of an update on $100,000 earners in the paper’s coverage area. The last update was in 2009.
Forty-nine positions on the list earn a base salary of less than $100,000, but jump over that threshold through dozens of overtime hours each week. This is especially common in the police and fire departments. Without overtime, only 33 City of Lodi employees make $100,000 or more. Limits on overtime were removed last July.
Though the rise in $100,000 earners may be striking — especially since it happened during a national economic recession — city officials offered context they believe justifies the increase.
Dean Gualco, Human Resources manager, said comparisons should focus on base pay, not what employees actually take home. Taking only base pay into consideration, there was a 2 percent rise in $100,000 earners.
“Employees are told never to expect overtime, to only count on their base pay,” said Gualco. “But many employees are accustomed to it.”
Paying employees to work overtime means a 50-percent higher hourly wage. But the city is willing to pay it.
“It’s cheaper to pay for overtime than to hire new employees,” Gualco said.
Hiring new employees mean paying benefits like health insurance and retirement pensions. Putting fewer employees to work for longer hours is more cost-effective.
Gualco said many employees, including those in the fire and police departments, are happy to work overtime, because there was limited overtime pay from 2007 to 2012 due to budget cuts.
Some overtime was available for police officers to attend court hearings, perform sweep operations or finish up an arrest at the end of a shift.
Most of the top earners in the city of Lodi work at City Hall, the Electric Utility, and the fire and police departments. Three work for the Public Works department. In 2012, no one at the Lodi Public Library or Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services earned a paycheck of more than $100,000.
Fire Chief Larry Rooney said his department, normally staffed at 64, is down 11 positions. There must be a minimum of 12 people on shift at any time, because it takes three firefighters to run the engine at each firehouse.
Overtime hours add up quickly in that department. Instead of tacking on an hour or two at the end of a shift, employees will cover an entire 24-hour shift.
One battalion chief, Jeff Larson, has racked up so many overtime hours that he is actually paid more than Rooney.
Nearly 80 percent of calls for firefighters are for emergency medical services.
“Our firefighters are trained for an all-hazard response,” said Rooney.
That includes fires, car accidents, hazardous materials, technical rescues or emergency medical services. Lodi fire stations are placed in locations that can reach anywhere in town within four to six minutes. The American Medical Response company keeps an ambulance station in Lodi at 1709 S. Stockton St., and are able to deploy seven ambulances at a time. The average response time is about 4 minutes and 30 seconds.
“When you’re having a heart attack, 20 minutes isn’t going to cut it,” he said.
Over at the police department, there are more overtime opportunities than there are officers to fill them.
Lodi Police Capt. Chris Piombo said a majority of officer overtime is paid for by grants. Those who work on anti-gang task forces get their pay from California Gang Reduction Intervention and Prevention grants. The officers who sign up to cover the DUI checkpoints are paid through the Office of Traffic Safety.
“It shows up as overtime, but the city’s not paying for it,” he said. “There’s a core group of officers who always volunteer for the Grape Festival or checkpoints.”
Mounce explained that the abundance of overtime hours is a result of tight city budgets.
“We’ve got the minimum number of people working. When something goes wrong, or people are on vacation, we don’t have enough people to work and we have to work people overtime,” said Mounce. “It’s unfortunate, but it’s where we’re stuck with a slim budget.”
Mayor Alan Nakanishi said the numbers sound dramatic, but staff in other cities are paid more.
“The thing about this is the people have been working here and staying here,” he said. “That’s the reason. The money spent is well worth it.”
One local resident isn’t shocked by these numbers.
“That’s a big jump, but I’m not surprised,” said Ed Miller, a Lodi resident, Tea Party member, and frequent attendee of city council meetings. “I understand the need for overtime to avoid bringing on new folks.”
What worries Miller is what all this overtime means for pensions in the future.
“Sometimes people have a game to do all this overtime to up the ante on pensions, which drives the load on the system when these people retire,” he said. “There can be legitimate needs for working overtime. If anything needs to be reviewed, its the reasons for overtime.”
Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
City of Lodi employees who earn more than $100,000
|Konradt L. Bartlam||City Manager||$180,746.48|
|Jordan Ayers||Deputy City Manager||$146,394.16|
|Donald S. Schwabauer||City Attorney||$141,346.28|
|David D. Gualco||Human Resources Manager||$105,495.89|
|Janice D. Magdich||Deputy City Attorney||$104,612.70|
|Ruby Paiste||Financial Services Manager||$103,797.38|
|Randi K. Johl||City Clerk||$102,358.72|
Lodi Electric Utility
|Roderick Brown||Service Operator II||$144,920.59|
|Robert Anderson||Service Operator II||$138,362.30|
|Barry Fisher||Construction/Maintenance Supervisor||$129,116.11|
|Jerry Michael||Senior Troubleshooter||$126,612.02*|
|Roy Dodgion Jr.||Troubleshooter||$121,116.41*|
|Kevin Riedinger||Operations Superintendent||$117,830.44|
|Edward Fitzpatrick||Senior Technician||$114,295.13|
|Weldetnsae Haile||Senior Power Engineer||$104,814.32|
|Patricia Novinger||Service Operator||$104,383.90*|
|John Vander||Jack Distribution Planner||$103,113.02|
Public Works Department
|Charles E. Swimley||City Engineer/Deputy Director||$122,402.02|
|Larry Parlin||Deputy Director-WWS||$105,187.10|
Lodi Fire Department
|Jeff Larson||Battalion Chief||$152,834.55|
|Ronald Penix||Battalion Chief||$146,554.24|
|Aimee New||Division Chief||$144,916.37|
|George Juelch||Battalion Chief||$142,955.58|
|Eugene Stoddart||Battalion Chief||$121,967.53*|
|Craig Copulos||Captain||$105,143.25 *|
Lodi Police Department
|Ryan LaRue||Officer||$106,136.90 *|
|Timothy Fritz||Corporal||$104,399.87 *|