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Workers in Montgomery County liquor agency rack up overtime

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Local,Maryland,Kate Jacobson,Montgomery County

Employees of Montgomery County's Department of Liquor Control clocked 21,000 hours of overtime in fiscal 2012, costing the department about $656,000. And this year the department is on track for even more.

Department managers blame the high amount of overtime on staff cuts and a large amount of injuries to warehouse workers who distribute alcohol across the county.

The department has about 686 workers.

While last fiscal year's overtime was high, this year's overtime paychecks are on pace to be even bigger, with 17,600 extra hours clocked this year to date from 12,700 this time a year ago, the report by the CountyStat accountability agency found. Overtime in 2012 was higher than in 2011, the report found, although all the data in the report were not released to the public Wednesday.

Department Director George Griffin said staff cuts are prompting more overtime hours, and more workers who are moving alcohol in and out of the county's warehouse are getting injured, which is causing even fewer workers to be available to work.

"If you're having more [workers using overtime], then you run the risk of increasing your chances for injury," Griffin said. "Eventually, you're going to have more time off due to injury."

The most overtime was used by supply technicians in the warehouse and distribution drivers.

The peak overtime hours occur during demanding holiday seasons: The top weeks for overtime coincided with Christmas and Thanksgiving, he pointed out.

CountyStat analyst Ian Boyd said the agency did not taken into account injuries and was going to re-evaluate how much a factor those were in overtime use. He also said the agency didn't take into account workers' productivity.

On average, CountyStat found only about 85 percent of the workforce was available at any given time.

The report also found liquor sales to minors are down. In fiscal 2012, citations for selling to underage customers dropped 33 percent to 400, from about 600 in fiscal 2011. However, there was a slight increase in businesses failing to check for identification. About 102 businesses out of 404 failed in compliance checks for sales to minors, although the 2011 data were not released.

Kathie Durbin, the division chief of licensure, regulation and education for theDepartment of Liquor Control, said the increase is partly because of a poor economy. When restaurants and liquor stores are short-staffed, the chances increase that an inexperienced waiter or clerk will not scrutinize a young person trying to buy alcohol.

"You have fewer people doing more," Durbin said.

kjacobson@washingtonexaminer.com

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