Editor’s Note: This story is the first of three about the use of overtime at the Honolulu Road Division. Read the rest of our coverage:

A small group of people in the Honolulu Road Maintenance Division made big bucks in overtime, a Civil Beat investigation found.

  • Five workers made more in overtime than regular pay.
  • They each logged more than 1,200 overtime hours in one year, with one filing claims for 1,582.5 hours of OT, or the equivalent of 39.5 regular work weeks.
  • One construction worker wracked up so much OT that she earned more than $100,000.
  • Some rank and file employees earned more than management through overtime.
  • A manager regularly scheduled 10-hour shifts to “monitor overtime”

The review of two years of overtime records also found possible double-charging, with workers claiming overtime twice on the same day for different jobs performed at overlapping times. (The city says it didn’t pay employees twice.) And it revealed that the illegal dumping of concrete rubble into Maiilili Stream in Waianae, for which the city has been fined $1.7 million, involved far more overtime, including on weekends, than the city previously reported.

Neither the Road Division chief, Tyler Sugihara, nor his boss, the director of Honolulu’s Department of Facilities Maintenance, George “Keoki” Miyamoto, would answer questions from Civil Beat. The city is conducting an internal investigation of the division.

Civil Beat decided to take a closer look at the division’s overtime records after criminal charges were filed against a street-sweeping supervisor for allegedly verifying false overtime claims for himself and three other employees, who paid him kickbacks, a story first reported by KITV. The supervisor pleaded no contest last month and faces up to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine at his sentencing in January. Two of the employees were granted five-year deferrals and a third employee is scheduled to go on trial Monday.

The results of our review show a department rife with outsized overtime claims, especially during the 2009 budget year:

  • A heavy construction worker accrued 1,433 overtime hours, more than doubling her base pay of $48,960 and earning more than $100,000 in a year.

  • A public facilities trash collector claimed 1,582.5 hours of overtime, adding roughly $40,570 to his base pay of $35,544.

  • Another public facilities trash collector claimed 1,574 overtime hours, adding as much as $40,349 to his base pay of $35,544.

  • A power washing crew leader, whose base pay was $41,592, earned about $43,000 by filing for 1,431.5 overtime hours.

  • A storm drain cleaner whose base pay was $36,960 earned as much as $40,210 by claiming 1,251.5 overtime hours.

Civil Beat is not naming the employees at this time because the focus of this investigation is city oversight of overtime and projects, not the authorized actions of individuals.

To put the overtime hours in perspective, city employees are paid for a 40-hour week, 52 weeks a year, or 2,080 hours. They are also entitled to paid holidays, other vacation days and sick leave.

In order to accumulate more than 1,500 hours of overtime in a year, employees regularly claimed overtime six days or more a week.

Here’s an example of the overtime hours claimed by a construction worker during the week of Aug. 18, 2008, a total of 44 hours:

  • Monday: Four Hours
  • Tuesday: Four Hours
  • Wednesday: Four Hours
  • Thursday: Four Hours
  • Friday: Four Hours
  • Saturday: 12 hours
  • Sunday: 12 hours

A Pattern of Overspending on Overtime

Budget documents show a pattern of heavy overtime spending across the board within the Department of Facilities Maintenance. Nearly every individual work unit consistently overspent on overtime.

In budget year 2009, the storm drains unit spent $111,654 on non-holiday overtime —10 times it’s $11,000 budget. The unit was allotted $2,000 for holiday overtime pay and instead spent $5,629.

That same year, the carpentry and masonry unit spent $318,637 on non-holiday overtime — eight times its allotted $40,000. It paid out $15,548 in holiday overtime pay — three times its $5,000 budget.

Both units overspent even more on overtime in fiscal 2008. The storm drains unit spent $138,190 — 12.5 times its $11,000 allotment. The unit charged $7,077 in holiday overtime pay, more than three times its $2,000 budget.

The carpentry and masonry unit spent $356,157 on non-holiday overtime — nine times its $40,000 budget — and $18,167 on holiday overtime, or three and a half times the allotted amount.

Overtime Spending Fiscal Year 2009

Unit Non-Holiday Overtime Budget Non-Holiday Overtime Spent Holiday Overtime Budget Holiday Overtime Pay Spent Regular Pay Surplus
Flood Control-Stream Cleaning $30,000 $195,198 $6,000 $11,895 $523,740
Storm Drains $11,000 $111,654 $2,000 $5,629 $149,900
Repair $40,000 $204,084 $5,000 $11,634 $406,956
Carpentry and Masonry $40,000 $318,637 $5,000 $15,548 $214,500
Roadside Maintenance $25,000 $199,216 $2,400 $11,960 $262,576
Wahiawa Unit $3,000 $31,362 $550 $1,250 $120,656
Waianae Unit $10,000 $46,331 $1,000 $1,908 $154,468
Waialua Unit $5,000 $59,269 $500 $2,054 $174,816

The units’ bloated overtime costs often closely mirrored surpluses each had in their “regular pay” budgets. In other words, the city spent more money for fewer hours of work than it would have gotten if it had just hired more workers.

Overtime Records Stack Five-Feet Tall

The division, charged with maintaining city roads, storm drains, streams and channels, has about 300 employees, according to a roster provided by the department.

Most of those employees took overtime. Civil Beat tracked a core group of about 10 who appeared to collect the most hours.

The division’s overtime records are kept on legal-sized sheets of paper titled “Foreman’s Daily Work Report.” Different groups within the division appear to file variations of the same sheet. Most are typed, a few are handwritten.

The files are kept in large metal filing cabinets in the division’s headquarters, a subterranean room with few windows and cinderblock walls in Halawa.

Stacked together, the overtime records for calendar years 2008 and 2009 measured five feet tall.

Each report lists the first initial and last name of employees claiming overtime that day, the hours each person worked, a brief description of the work performed and notes on whether employees were given a lunch break.

Every report requires two signatures, one from a supervisor, the other from the division chief.

Descriptions in the foreman’s reports are often vague:

On December 8, 2008, the construction worker whose salary with overtime topped $100,000, worked 12 overtime hours to “check future jobs,” among other tasks.

  • On December 6, 2008, a road labor supervisor claimed that he worked 18.5 hours of overtime — from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. the following day — to clean storm drains in Waikiki and “oversee roadside assist at Honolulu city lites (sic) setting up and breaking down chairs tables etc.” One of the two required signatures is his own.

Between August-December 2008, a different road maintenance supervisor, logged at least 10 hours of overtime every Saturday to “monitor overtime” and answer e-mails. Another work order in January 2009 shows the supervisor assigning himself 2 hours of overtime on a Friday to “Monitor Overtime work; complete Misc. reports; clear in-tray; respond to emails; clean out email inbox.” The documents shows the overtime is “scheduled.” On each report, one of the two required signatures is his own.

Street Sweeping Scandal Had a Chilling Effect

The street sweeping scandal had a chilling effect on workers’ overtime use.

In May 2009, Jeoffrey Cudiamat, then-director of the Department of Facilities Maintenance, sent out a memo calling for all divisions to “control overtime, monitor overtime expenditures and minimize overtime expenditures to the extent possible.”

“No overtime will be granted for performing routine, non-emergency work that can be performed during regular business hours,” the memo read.

The largest overtime claims appeared to occur in the 2009 budget year. The hours claimed dropped off significantly after the scandal made the news in April, near the end of the fiscal year.

The construction employee who earned more than $100,000 cut her overtime hours from 551.5 in the first half of 2009 to zero for the rest of the year. Four others among the 10 employees we tracked cut their hours by 90 percent. The rest reduced their hours by at least 60 percent. Workers stopped claiming overtime every day of the week. Instead, they claimed eight hours each on weekends. Only a handful of reports noted the work as an emergency.

This is backed up by numbers provided by the department for calendar years 2008 and 2009. It used 118,853 hours of overtime in 2008 and 69,777 in 2009. Spending for 2008 was $3,737,486 and for 2009 it was $2,288,585.

By May 2010, it appeared as if nothing had changed: some of the same employees were back to claiming overtime six days a week.

Next: The city already owes the state a $1.7 million fine for illegally dumping concrete rubble into Mailiili stream. What’s worse is that they paid workers overtime to do it: Road to Riches: City Workers Claimed 5,525 Overtime Hours for Illegal Stream Dumping.

—Robert Brown and Lena Tran contributed to this report.

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