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Analysis: State’s Top OT Earner Tripled His Salary

September 30, 2018
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Analysis: State’s Top OT Earner Tripled His Salary

A doctor at Danville State Hospital claimed more overtime pay in 2016-17 than any other state employee, more than tripling his current salary, according to an analysis of state employee overtime records.

It appears that Michael Brogna was promoted since he collected an extra $171,419 in 2016, and $217,688 in 2017, on top of his regular salary.

He earned $140,421 in 2016, and $153,487 in 2017, according to the state salary database at www.pennwatch.pa.gov.

His supervisor’s salary this year is $174,534, according to PennWatch.

Repeated attempts to reach Brogna and Danville State Hospital Chief Executive Officer Theresa Long were unsuccessful.

Overtime spending dropped 4 percent from 2015, when it hit a two-decade high of $250 million.

State government paid nearly a half-billion dollars, $239.1 million in 2016 and $240.3 million in 2017, on overtime, up less than 1 percent from one year to the next.

Bob Dick, a policy analyst with the Commonwealth Foundation think tank, said the drop is a good sign, but the fractional uptick that followed is something to watch.

“I’m not sure if that is on an upward trajectory,” he said. “If it is, then that certainly needs to be addressed.”

Corrections leads OT

The Corrections Department took the greatest slice of the overtime pie, nearly double the runner-up — the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation — for both years.

Top-paying agencies contend that overtime is an essential tool when high-priority work comes up that can’t get done within regularly scheduled hours.

“Our mission is to keep drivers safe and on the move regardless of what the weather throws at us,” said PennDOT spokesman Richard Kirkpatrick. “Despite the challenges of meeting this mission, we do not overstaff.”

Corrections, which employs more than 15,300 salaried and 125 hourly employees, categorically pays the most overtime, and 2016-17 was no different. The agency paid $101.9 million in 2016, but saw a 6 percent decrease in 2017, when it paid $95.7 million.

Corrections department spokeswoman Amy Worden said the drop follows efforts to tighten operations and fill vacancies.

The effort was fueled in part by a 2017 report championed by Sen. David Argall, R-29, Tamaqua, on staff shortages and overtime.

While corrections was the highest, it’s the only agency among the top eight overtime spenders to see a decline between those years. All others paid more from 2016 to 2017.

Part of corrections’ efforts included reducing the job vacancy rate to 1 percent or less, improving case management for staff on medical leave and more training.

Staff displaced when State Correctional Institution — Pittsburgh closed in May 2017 transferred to other prisons, which also helped fill vacant positions.

“Ultimately, OT is inevitable in a public safety agency that operates around the clock,” Worden said. “The DOC does not want to overstaff a prison or hire people for holes in the schedule that can be filled more efficiently with OT.”

Dick said he’s skeptical of that approach.

Overtime may help plug an immediate staffing hole, but its full effects don’t show up right away.

When calculating a worker’s pension, how much they earned in overtime is part of the equation, and “that would ultimately lead to more costs down the road for taxpayers, so that’s something we should be concerned about as well,” he said.

Events can dictate OT

PennDOT competes for talent with other construction and heavy equipment companies, such as those in the Marcellus Shale industry and those that need workers with commercial driver’s licenses. The agency hires more than 600 temporary workers in the winter months.

“Like a construction contractor, the most productive operation for our department force efforts can involve overtime,” Kirkpatrick said.

In cases when contract companies are working overtime, government quality inspectors monitoring the job have to put in extra hours, too.

PennDOT, which employs about 11,300 salaried and 1,200 hourly employees, maintains about 40,000 miles of road and 25,000 bridges.

The Human Services Department, which pays Brogna’s salary and overtime, was third-highest for both years — $34.4 million in 2016, and $36 million in 2017. The department has 15,484 salaried and 828 hourly employees.

While human services was third-highest overall, its employees made up nearly all of the top individual overtime earners.

State police, with about 6,000 salaried employees and 200 hourly workers, paid the fourth-most in overtime for both years,

$29 million in 2016, and

$30.7 million in 2017.

Like other agencies where a key function is reacting to events as they unfold, state police always expects to pay overtime.

“There will always be some level of overtime associated with police work,” said state police spokesman Ryan Tarkowski.

The 2016 Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia was the single largest overtime driver for state police, Tarkowski said. The ongoing and often unpredictable issues feeding the overtime included severe weather events, criminal investigations and assistance to local departments and other agencies, he said.

State police overtime is often reimbursed through grants or outside groups that request state police assistance. In 2016, those other revenue streams paid $11.2 million; in 2017,

$13.1 million was reimbursed.

Contact the writer:

joconnell@timesshamrock.com

570-348-9131, @jon_oc

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