The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has uncovered a bizarre scheme in the short-staffed Department of Corrections where some guards work overtime and then call in sick, getting premium pay for overtime nonetheless.
Some of the guards came near or over six figure salaries considering their overtime pay. In one cited example, a guard at Redgranite Correctional Institution used nearly 23 days of sick leave in 2006. She was paid $97,280 that year, including $51,042 in overtime. The Department of Corrections shelled out more than $36 million in taxpayer money for overtime that year.
It's time for a huge reality check and corrective action.
Let's start with the Redgranite officer. Her base pay parallels that of young Assistant District Attorneys who have doctorate degrees and, instead of making big dollars, often have over six figures in educational debt. I doubt that officer has the educational background or debt load that these young prosecutors have and they don't get a dime in overtime! (Plus her total wages with overtime approaches the pay earned by the state's most senior attorneys -- people with well over 20 years on the job.)
There are several glitches in the state employment system that need fixing.
First, if the Department of Corrections -- or any other agency -- needs that much overtime, there's a bigger problem with maintaining adequate staffing levels.
Second, who is minding the store when it comes to tracking potential sick leave abuse?
Third, why are career professional employees with advanced degrees making less money and get no overtime whatsoever? The public suffers from the revolving talent door.
Make no mistake -- employees deserve to be fairly compensated for their work. It's not their fault that the state is so mismanaged.
On the flip side, the abuses and inequity must stop.
And, finally, what's with these workers blowing their sick leave? Yes, they may be cranking out big wages to improve their pension checks, but retirees are required to pay for their own health insurance and unused sick leave is converted to a fund at retirement to pay those premiums. That's supposed to be an incentive for employees not to overuse sick leave -- and generally it works. But these examples are deplorable.