L.A. firefighter banked $360,010 in overtime pay in one year, city audit finds

Eighteen firefighters received more than $200,000 in overtime from the L.A. Fire Department in the last fiscal year, according to a city audit.
(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

Eighteen employees of the Los Angeles Fire Department earned more than $200,000 in overtime pay last fiscal year, with one firefighter making $360,010 in overtime alone, according to an audit released Wednesday by City Controller Ron Galperin.

More than 90% of sworn police and fire employees last fiscal year received overtime, earning an average of $27,737, while 40% of the city’s general employees, defined as other sworn and civilian workers, received such pay. That group earned an average of $7,528.

Although auditors “concluded that departments properly approved and substantiated the majority of sworn and civilian overtime, there is clearly a need for better oversight and regulation,” Galperin wrote in a letter accompanying his office’s audit of overtime use in the city.

The review has been sent to the mayor, city attorney and City Council offices for consideration.


In addition to firefighters and police, traffic officers and building inspectors are some of the biggest collectors of overtime pay for the city. Employees at the airport, sanitation, and street services departments also earned significant amounts of overtime.

The 17-page audit didn’t analyze overtime at the Department of Water and Power, where employees also can earn significant additional pay. (An earlier review found that the DWP ranked second in overtime pay in the city, after the Fire Department.)

Galperin’s audit also didn’t list the names of the employees who earned the most, but noted that a traffic officer racked up 3,702 hours in overtime, making $174,348. A senior heating and refrigerator inspector at the Building and Safety Department earned $152,163.

Colin Sweeney, a Department of Transportation spokesman, said traffic officers receive overtime for working special events, such as at Staples Center and Dodger Stadium, and for helping during emergencies, such as fires. The department schedules that overtime, Sweeney said, and the city is typically reimbursed for staffing special events.

LAFD spokesman Peter Sanders didn’t provide details about the firefighter who made more than $360,000 last fiscal year, but said that the department relies on overtime as part of its “constant staffing” model. Sanders also noted that state and federal governments “almost entirely” reimburse LAFD for fighting wildfires.

The audit also found that overtime has increased at the city’s sanitation department, rising $2 million year over year since fiscal 2014-15. Most of the workers receiving overtime last fiscal year were garbage truck operators, the audit found.

Overall, overtime increased by about 1% over the last five years, to 10.9% of the city’s payroll this year. Labor agreements, deployment practices and scheduling policies all affect overtime pay, the audit found.

The audit recommends “exploring other employment models” to reduce overtime and suggests that department heads should monitor individual employees who rack up a lot of overtime. The audit also suggests city leaders limit overtime hours per shift.