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Keenan contests worker overtime



Published: Mon, January 28, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The city paid its workers more than $200,000 in overtime during 2001.

By TIM YOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

HUBBARD -- At least one lawmaker wants city council and the administration to discuss employee overtime, an expense he terms "absurd."

"Somebody's let it get out of control," contended Councilman Richard Keenan, D-4th.

Keenan, a former councilman who regained his seat in the November general election, is calling on his fellow lawmakers to meet with Mayor George Praznik about the cost.

"Where's the administration been?" he queried.

"If council has a problem, they know where my office is. I never say no," the mayor responded.

Amounts: In some cases, employees are being paid anywhere from about a third to more than 50 percent above their regular wages in overtime.

For example, Edward Palestro, a lighting department foreman, was paid $13,287 in overtime in addition to his $38,606 salary in 2001.

John Clemente, water department foreman, was paid $23,371 in overtime atop his $41,597 salary.

City hall janitor Ed Pompili Sr., brother of Councilwoman Lisha Pompili-Baumiller, D-3rd, was paid $7,903 overtime. His regular pay last year was $22,616.

The city paid $202,695 in overtime last year, according to auditor Michael Villano.

This year, $157,500 has been appropriated by council, about the same as last year. During the year, more money had been transferred from other funds to pay the rest, the auditor said.

Need: Keenan said he realizes there are emergencies when police must work overtime or workers are called out to repair waterline breaks and power outages.

"I'm glad he figured that out," Praznik said of Keenan, whom the mayor accused of "showboating."

"Is all the overtime justified? I don't think so," Keenan said. "It's time to tighten up this overtime."

Praznik said he doesn't have anything to do with overtime; department heads submit their budgets and council appropriates the money.

"I don't see what the big issue is," the mayor said, noting there are only four employees in the water department and one was off ill most of last year.

There is enough work in the water department for five employees, the mayor said, but it's cheaper in the long run to pay the overtime rather than hire another full-timer.

Also, Praznik added, the waterlines are old, and the city has experienced 10 breaks in less than two weeks.

Villano declined to comment about the overtime issue. "Some things are better left unsaid," he noted.

Bonnie Viele, D-1st, chairwoman of council's finance committee, declined to comment.

"I don't want to discuss it," Viele said, noting she hasn't talked to her fellow lawmakers.

William Williams, D-at large, utilities committee chairman, said he isn't surprised at the overtime costs.

He said the city's priority in the water department has been construction and equipment purchases. With only four employees in the department, hiring another one has been discussed, he said.

yovich@vindy.com




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