Richmond County school officials have paid $333,985 in overtime to 30 public safety officers from July 1999 through June.
Of that, 18 officers were paid $10,000 or more, including one who was paid $29,790 - almost as much as his $33,300 yearly salary. Another officer, whose salary also is $33,300, was paid $27,977 in overtime.
The overtime totals were compiled in an audit requested by schoolboard member Barbara Padgett; the request also seeks information regarding officers' job responsibilities, cars assigned, and uniforms and weapons issued.
The audit, which was to be finished today, was mailed to board members and is expected to be discussed at tonight's school board meeting at 8 p.m.
Mrs. Padgett did not return three telephone messages left at her home Tuesday and Wednesday. But in a letter to Richmond County schools Superintendent Charles Larke, Mrs. Padgett said she requested the audit because she had asked public safety officials for information for a considerable length of time and the answers she received were not what she'd asked for.
Maj. Mike Farrell, director of public safety, said the overtime is justified.
"What happens is, we have a lot of athletic events and (ball) games and we don't have staff for night school," he said, adding that two deputies work the evening school four nights a week. "Obviously all of that overtime was to make up for people we don't have.
"We take care to spread it around, but not everyone wants to work those hours," he said. "Some people are more interested in the money, some are more interested in family time."
Maj. Farrell says when one officer turns down overtime, his staff goes down the list to see who wants to work.
Cpl. Johnny Beard, an officer at Lucy Laney High School, racked up the most overtime with $29,790, and Cpl. Charlie Alston, an officer at Glenn Hills High School, came in second with $27,977.
Officer Jack Rackliff, who joined the department 10 months ago at Westside High School, already has accumulated $12,384 in overtime. His yearly salary is $17,519.
Maj. Farrell said this is normal.
"I didn't give anybody any overtime that I didn't think provided a service," he said. "They all worked during those hours, if you work a lot of overtime you get paid a lot of money."
In the previous school year, $277,316 in overtime was paid to public safety officers.
When asked whether overtime is a guaranteed benefit of working in public safety, Maj. Farrell said there's no way to provide the level of security they provide without overtime.
"It's very easy to say this seems like a lot of money, but they all work those hours," Maj. Farrell said. "Nobody worked if we didn't need them.
"When there's a problem, when your kid is being beaten up, nobody cares that it takes extra dollars to protect them."
In addition to the $333,985 paid to public safety officers, officers from the Richmond County Sheriff's Department were paid about $21,600 to assist at the games, Maj. Farrell said.
Sheriff's deputies are paid $14 an hour when they work special details during sporting events. Richmond County school officers are paid time and a half when they work overtime, Maj. Farrell said.
A lot of the overtime accrued while officers were working in the 24-hour dispatch office.
School board Vice President Andrew Jefferson said the board should consider hiring a full-time dispatcher.
"I was against changing the officers from 12-month to 10-month employees," Mr. Jefferson said of a policy that was changed about three years ago. "It seems to me putting them back on 12-month salaries would eliminate some of the overtime."
Reach Faith Johnson at (706) 823-3765 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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