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D.C. pays $1m in overtime to 25 fire/EMS workers

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Local,DC,Alan Blinder,Watchdog

A group of 25 D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department employees combined to earn more than $1 million in overtime pay during the city's most recent fiscal year, agency statistics show.

According to records provided to the D.C. Council, the 25 workers collected $1,021,242.07 in overtime. That compensation was in addition to more than $1.6 million in salary.

"I'm extremely concerned about the overtime," Ward 6 Councilman Tommy Wells, the chairman of the council's public safety committee, said Wednesday. "I'll dig much further into this to make sure this is not repeated."

Contract ahead?
The District and its firefighters union will meet with a mediator Thursday as the two sides seek a contract for the first time since 2007. The parties declared an impasse last year, and the dispute will go to arbitration if they can't reach a deal through mediation.

Wells also described the significant use of overtime as "a management issue."

Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe blamed the overtime, which was especially prolific among the department's mechanics, on poorly scheduled leaves of absence and the need to return firefighting equipment to the streets quickly. But he said his agency was instituting reforms to curb the need for overtime.

"We weren't paying as much attention to it as we are now," Ellerbe said. "They have taken some serious measures to reduce overtime."

George A. Maxfield, a heavy mobile equipment mechanic, earned more overtime compensation than any other fire department employee, collecting nearly $98,000 in extra pay to go along with his annual salary of approximately $57,741.

His total compensation for the fiscal year -- about $155,593 -- was a 32 percent increase from his pay for the previous fiscal year, a period in which he was also a top overtime recipient.

But Maxfield, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday, was far from the only mechanic to earn tens of thousands of dollars in extra cash.

Department records show 20 mechanics were among the agency's leading recipients of overtime pay, collectively taking home nearly $872,000 of supplemental compensation.

Kenneth Lyons, whose union represents the mechanics, said some payouts were "extremely excessive," but he noted that management had approved all overtime.

Fire department compensation has been the subject of persistent questions from D.C. lawmakers through the years as the agency routinely exceeded its overtime budget.

And even though the agency doled out millions in payments in 2012, the department stayed within its total budget of $195 million because it underspent in other areas.

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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