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Debate sizzles over OT for supervisors in Youngstown government

YOUNGSTOWN — City council is being asked by the administration to pay $24,298.48 in overtime to seven health district employees, including six who are management and not normally eligible for the extra pay, for additional work they did this year during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Council members will discuss the ordinance, sponsored by Mayor Jamael Tito Brown, at a Monday finance committee meeting. A vote is scheduled for Wednesday’s council meeting.

The money is coming from a state COVID-19 grant, said Erin Bishop, health commissioner.

As a department head, Bishop isn’t normally eligible for overtime. If the legislation is approved, she would get the most among the seven: $9,915.70 for 179 hours of overtime this year at time-and-a-half. Her hourly salary is $36.93.

The last time overtime was given to city health district workers was during the 2010 H1N1 outbreak, she said.

Bishop said: “I put in a lot of time. This doesn’t include any overtime I put in during 2020. I’ve worked here since 2011 and have never been compensated for overtime. During the pandemic, there are things that are uncontrollable. We didn’t want to close clinics” during the pandemic.

The city’s board of health, of which Brown is chairman, approved the overtime payments at a May 3 meeting. But it needs council’s support for the payments to happen.

The other big payout is $8,937.61 to Anthea Mickens, director of nursing, for 205.25 hours of overtime. Her hourly salary is $29.03.

The four other health district management employees would get between $724.95 and $1,861.02 with Rick Dezsi, a unionized employee who works as an environmental sanitarian, getting $580.39. Bishop said overtime for her department isn’t budgeted in the general fund, even for union members.

IT’S ALLOWED

City Law Director Jeff Limbian wrote a legal opinion to Bishop and Brown stating this overtime is permissible.

Limbian wrote that “given the unique situation” of the pandemic and Gov. Mike DeWine’s emergency health orders, “such overtime must be paid.”

Limbian added: “Ms. Bishop would have been irresponsible and neglectful of her responsibilities if she had not exercised her duties as enumerated in the Ohio Revised Code. Certainly, those duties extend past a 40-hour work week. It would be unconscionable to deny her remuneration for work that was mandated by statute.”

But it could be challenging to get approval from city council.

Councilwoman Anita Davis, D-6th Ward, said: “I’m not looking at this favorably at all. It sets a horrible precedent. It’s department heads and management, and it’s part of the job. There is no ‘yes’ vote coming from me, nope, nope, a hard no, no, no, a firm no.”

The administration and health officials are “going to have to do a lot of explaining to tell me why this is something I could vote for,” Davis said.

Councilman Mike Ray, D-4th Ward, said: “If we do this, it needs to be fair and equitable for all employees. We shouldn’t do this on a one-department basis.”

He also said a vote could be postponed.

“It’s not a ticking clock to do this,” Ray said.

Councilman Julius Oliver, D-1st Ward, said the proposal might not make it to council floor Wednesday for a vote and be further discussed in committee.

Councilwoman Lauren McNally, D-5th Ward, said: “I’m confused by this. I need to talk to (Bishop) and see what’s going on. Management doesn’t get overtime. They get comp time and department heads are completely exempt” from overtime. “I have a bunch of questions about this.”

But Councilwoman Samantha Turner, D-3rd Ward, said she supports the overtime payments.

“I am in favor of them receiving overtime, and it’s great that it’s a grant,” she said. “It’s the right thing to do. I was shocked they weren’t getting overtime. I have no qualms with it.”

Also, if Brown wants to propose overtime for other departments that don’t typically get it but put in extra hours during the pandemic, Turner said she’d support it.

dskolnick@vindy.com

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