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93 Chicago city employees made over $100,000 in overtime in 2023, data show

Dozens of Chicago city employees made over $100,000 in overtime last year
Dozens of Chicago city employees made over $100,000 in overtime last year 04:00

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Is it possible to make more than $200,000 in overtime in one year?

If one is a City of Chicago employee, the answer is yes.

CBS 2 got a first look at some soon-to-be-released data from the Chicago Office of Budget and Management. 

The data showed last year, there were dozens of city employees making more than $100,000 in overtime. In one department, two employees took home a combined total of nearly $500,000 in overtime.

The CBS 2 Investigators analyzed more than 1 million rows of city budget office data. The data showed five key city departments relied on overtime the most:

  • Police: $219 million, up 11% from last year.
  • Fire: $64 million, down 22% from last year.
  • Water: $32 million, down 13% from last year.
  • Streets & Sanitation: $16 million, down 31% from last year.
  • Assets, Information, and Services: $13 million, down 7% from last year.

A total of 93 city employees earned more than $100,000 just in overtime last year in three of those departments.

"$100,000 or more in overtime - that should be a never, ever, ever situation," said Civic Federation President Joe Ferguson. "Period."

Ferguson, who also served as Inspector General for the City of Chicago under three mayors, was asked to weigh in on the overtime findings.

"That is a screaming red flag that something internally is not being tracked, and monitored, and addressed - because it simply should not happen," Ferguson said.

There are two Fire Department employees who fall into the $100,000 category. A Fire Department spokesperson said the overtime earned was due to the need to fill staff vacancies:

"In 2023 [a CFD member] was assigned as a Deputy District Chief (DDC).  He has since returned to his career service rank of Battalion Chief.  While serving as a DDC, [the member] worked overtime, as requested by the Department, to cover vacancies in the rank of DDC.  Any overtime worked by DDC's is paid at a straight time rate, not time and half.  Overtime to DDCs is offered in a similar manner to the bargaining unit members, via an overtime rotation list.  [The member] only worked overtime when required by departmental operation needs and as approved by department leadership.

"Overtime at the rank of Ambulance Commander is distributed in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement with the union.  Every ambulance must be staffed with a Fire Paramedic and Officer – Ambulance Commander or Paramedic in Charge.   Any time there is a vacancy in the officer position, the department offers the overtime opportunity by working through the established overtime rotation list.  [A specific ambulance commander] could only accept those opportunities offered via the overtime rotation list."

In the Water Department, there were five employees who earned more than $100,000 each in overtime in 2023.

In a statement, the Water Department said: "Employees of the Department of Water Management are skilled union employees. We operate 24/7 and when we have vacancies, employees taking paid time off, or other forms of absenteeism, we must use staff with similar training to fill in for them." 

The data show 85 sworn Chicago Police Department members - the largest department - made more than $100,000 in overtime last year.

Two made more than double that. One member made $254,152 in overtime, while another made $231,505. Altogether, that is almost $500,000 in overtime alone for just two police department employees in one year.

"This person unquestionably worked all of the time to result in pay at that level," said Ferguson. "It's his supervisors, it's the department, it's their systems that have failed here."

In response to this story, the Chicago Police Department issued this statement:

"The Chicago Police Department takes its fiscal responsibility seriously and regularly reviews internal operations to ensure the overtime budget is used efficiently and effectively.  

"In addition to evaluating overtime use Department-wide, district commanders are directly responsible for reviewing and approving the use of overtime under their supervision so that it is used appropriately and judiciously. This allows for strengthened accountability both fiscally and operationally. 

"Overtime has been used to help maintain public safety during a police officer shortage that has affected not only CPD, but major city police departments across the nation. As we work to fill these vacancies, we must also ensure there are sufficient resources citywide to respond to critical incidents, emergencies and large gatherings that require additional police attention. 

"CPD is also tasked with public safety at major events and festivals, many of which do not reimburse the Department for these police resources."

In addition to overtime, supplemental earnings also boost a city employee's base pay, with things like duty-availability pay, holiday-premium pay, and specialty pay.

"Every single one of these departments operates under one or more collective bargaining agreements that provide special pay categories for special types of things," explained Ferguson.

"These supplemental pay things, they're a mechanism to provide for payment for things that actually have value. The duty availability one, we could all argue about. The fact of the matter is, you're home, you're with your family, you're on downtime. You're supposed to be available for certain things. That is something that should be built into the pay structure."

Supplemental earnings are more difficult to track than overtime, explained Ferguson.

"It's kind of hard to track because a number of these are paid differently, paid separately," he said. "They're not folded into a single paycheck with a bunch of itemized items. It's actually a separate pay."

So what is the city's solution to massive overtime? Ferguson said there should be overtime levels in place, and a staffing analysis needs to be done in these city departments.

"It doesn't mean these people are not working hard. It means we're not working well, and the taxpayers are not being well served in all of this," said Ferguson. "That's the responsibility of the fifth floor. That's the responsibility of the mayor's office."

CBS 2 did reach out to the Mayor's office for comment – in particular asking about the over $200 million in police overtime, which was more than double the budgeted amount for 2023.

There had been no response as of Thursday night.

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