In response to a request from Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz for an audit of overtime in the Sheriff's Department, Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw says he's going to audit all of the overtime in county government.
It all started as a request to look at the perennial problem of overtime for the sheriff, especially in the Jail Management Division which handles the downtown Holding Center and the Jail in Alden.
“I am pleased that Comptroller Mychajliw has echoed my earlier statements about the serious strain that massive amounts of overtime place on the County budget, and that he has also joined in calling attention to the main source of that overtime,” Poloncarz said in a statement Monday. “While all overtime needs to be carefully scrutinized, the overtime expense in these Divisions has been particularly egregious."
The county executive says last year 74 percent of the overtime in the county was in the Sheriff's Department, nearly $13 million.
Mychajliw says he will look at the entire 100 percent.
"My understanding is it's never been done before. There have been hyper-partisan political-type audits that looked at one department specifically before, but nothing across the board," Mychajliw said.
Mychajliw says the Sheriff's overtime issue is supposed to be resolved by hiring 72 new workers through 2015, a deal brokered with Albany. He says the county executive should know there is already a solution in the works and finds it "shocking" that Poloncarz wants to "waste thousands of dollars in audit hours" on the issue.
"The county executive's request is, quite frankly, bizarre, considering the New York State Commission of Correction and Erie County already came up with a plan to address this," Mychajliw said.
Sheriff Timothy Howard says he and his predecessors have continually argued for more people.
"As the sheriff, I welcome any audits that the comptroller wants to do. However, as a taxpayer, I would ask the comptroller or anyone else, 'What are we trying to do, prove the obvious?'," Howard told WBFO News.
Howard says while there is agreement to hire additional sheriff's department employees, most haven't been hired yet. Thirty people will be hired April 1, but Howard says taking retirees into account leads to an incremental change in the department's actual numbers.
Howard says the new hires, who will work on the lower end of the pay scale, will have an effect on reducing overtime. But he says the yearly hirings have to remain consistent.
"If we don't keep hiring people as people retire, overtime is going to go up," Howard said. "We have to keep on this trend. As long as we stay on this trend of hiring more people twice a year...we will make gains. But if all of a sudden 30 or 40 people retire and we don't hire, we're going to be back in the same situation."
WBFO News reached out to Poloncarz for comment, but the county executive was said to be unavailable.