Guards at the Erie County Holding Center downtown and the county Correctional Facility in Alden worked 13,819 fewer overtime hours during the first five months of 2013, compared with the same period last year, but a spike in overtime last month could throw those gains out of whack, county legislators were told Tuesday.
Thomas J. Diina, superintendent of the Jail Management Division for the Sheriff’s Office, doesn’t think it portends a negative trend.
“I don’t want to see the month of June trended out towards the end of the year, because I believe it is an anomaly, and once we get a look at it and see exactly what has occurred, … I think we can get things back on the track that we exhibited the first five months of the year,” Diina said.
He was addressing the Legislature’s Finance and Management Committee during the second day of midyear budget hearings with county department heads. Monday, officials from the county Budget Office expressed concern about negative overtime variances in the Jail Management Division.
“As Superintendent Diina said, maybe it was an anomaly. What we said to you yesterday was, we don’t know why they’re at $3.9 million of overtime spending through May on a budget of $7.5 million,” said Deputy Budget Director Timothy C. Callan, who represented the administration of County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz during the early portion of the daylong hearing Tuesday.
Callan said it was anticipated that once the Holding Center relinquished city cellblock duties in May 2012, there would be evidence of a decrease in overtime hours a year later. Instead, overtime hours were up by 1,500 last month, compared with June 2012, he said.
Diina, who attended Tuesday’s hearing with Scott M. Joslyn, chief of patrol services and professional standards for the Sheriff’s Office, said there were any number of reasons for the June spike in overtime, including a higher-than-average number of sick calls for the month and an unusually high number of guards who suffered injuries while on duty.
In addition, he noted, the county is still handling female inmates for the City of Buffalo.
“We did not expect that we would still be burdened with that population. So it has impacted the amount of savings that we would have realized from not having the city lockup,” Diina said.
Despite their differing perspectives on overtime for the division, Diina and Callan have vowed to work together to help ensure a positive trend.
While there are vacancies in jail management, Callan said, the division had 20 more filled positions during the first half of the year, compared with the same period last year. Joslyn said the department has begun to conduct illness verifications to ensure that employees are actually at home when they call in sick, as a means to help clamp down on overtime.
“And we are seeing the fruits of our labor in early July,” Joslyn said.