School Board votes to tighten overtime rules

The Clark County School Board on Thursday cracked down on an “open-ended” overtime policy that put Clark County School District police officers and support staff among its highest earners.

Two school police officers, Christopher Law and Anthony Cooke, earned $112,852 and $106,314 in overtime in 2007-08, or almost double the amount of their base salaries, according to payroll records obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

With the exception of Superintendent Walt Rulffes, they were the district’s top earners, with Law getting $180,261 in total compensation and Cooke receiving $160,640.

The district paid a total of $12.7 million in overtime in 2007 and $14 million in overtime in 2008.

While school police officers as a group increased their salaries by 25 percent through overtime last year, they are not the only employees clocking extra hours.

William Wiseman, who oversees the district’s security alarm system, nearly doubled his pay in 2007-08 through overtime, earning $149,863 in gross wages. Wiseman was the sixth-highest district earner overall, topping the district’s chief human resources officer and chief financial officer.

In an interview, Rulffes said overtime had gotten “excessive” and was never meant to supplement employee pay. He noted that a school police officer making $180,000 was equal to three teachers’ salaries. As salaried staff, teachers and administrators are ineligible for overtime.

As the district prepares for state budget cuts of $150 million, district officials said a revised policy should increase accountability and cut costs.

Under the revised rules approved Thursday, supervisors must approve overtime requests in advance and keep quarterly monitoring reports. Employees are not allowed to work in excess of 24 hours of overtime a week or more than 10 days in a row. Exceptions can be made for emergencies.

As a supervisor, Rulffes said he also needs to come “under scrutiny.”

His secretary, Elizabeth Carrero, who accompanies him to the hours-long School Board meetings, made $21,086 in overtime for a total salary of $90,507 in 2007-08.

Rulffes said the personnel department has discussed whether administrative secretaries should become salaried employees, which would make them ineligible for overtime.

School employees did not protest the changes to overtime policy or comment at Thursday’s public hearing.

In their defense, School Board President Terri Janison has said employees have been “unfairly portrayed” in the media as trying to “gouge the system.”

Janison said it was unfair to offer employees overtime and then criticize them for taking it.

School police Sgt. Phil Gervasi, former president of the union representing school police officers, said overtime benefits the employer because it allows them to hire fewer employees and pay fewer benefits. He said overtime shows that school police are understaffed, especially when compared to other local police departments.

School officials also acknowledge they need to ease the burdens on school police officers. They are looking at alternative ways to provide security at student activities and athletic events.

“We have too few officers trying to cover too many games,” Rulffes said.

Contact reporter James Haug at jhaug@ reviewjournal.com or 702-374-7917.

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