Concerned about the spiraling cost of overtime in the Orange County Sheriff's Department, Supervisor John Moorlach has asked a county auditor to study whether the department should hire more deputies instead of paying them tens of millions of dollars in overtime.
The Times reported Wednesday that the sheriff's overtime expenses have soared during the last few years, with two-thirds of the department's 1,700 sworn deputies now making more than $100,000 annually. Last year, 27 deputies collected more than $75,000 in overtime, and four earned more than $100,000 on top of their base salaries.
"We have to take a hard look at whether this overtime is justified," Moorlach said Wednesday. "Taxpayers get concerned when they think someone is gaming the system. We need to verify that this approach to manpower management within the Sheriff's Department was appropriate."
Moorlach said he had asked Steve Danley, the county's performance auditor, to study whether the department relies too heavily on overtime and, if so, how much overtime is appropriate.
In the last three years, the department's overtime budget has soared from $26 million to more than $49 million. Counting salary and benefits, the money could pay for more than 300 additional deputies.
Moorlach said he also wanted Danley to study whether the department could save money by switching from three-day to four-day workweeks. Deputies currently work three 12-hour shifts a week and one 8-hour shift twice a month.
Acting Sheriff Jack Anderson, concerned that some may have worked more than policy allows, has said he asked his staff to produce monthly reports tracking deputy overtime. Supervisor Bill Campbell on Wednesday applauded that plan but said the reports should be shared with the Board of Supervisors so it too could monitor the cost. Campbell said he planned to make such a request at the board's meeting next week.
"These are big numbers," Campbell said. "They should be controlled."
Supervisor Chris Norby, meanwhile, said he thought the department should hire more deputies to ease its overtime spending, adding that those who work 12-hour shifts need to rest on their days off. "It's one thing to use overtime to fill the gaps and something else to use it as a way of life," Norby said.
In another move that would give county supervisors more control over Sheriff's Department spending, board members are poised to vote next week on a proposal that would change how certain department funds are spent.
Such a shift could eliminate a system that has allowed the department to build up lush reserves beyond the county's control.