Control overtime and leave at state’s youth prison
The state auditor reported that sick leave and overtime have soared among correctional officers at Hawaii's youth prison.
EXCESSIVE sick leave and overtime claimed by correctional employees
have plagued the state for years, and a new audit of the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility in Kailua indicates the excess still exist. Overtime payments increase youth correctional officers' total compensation by more than a third, and some make more in overtime than in straight pay. Measures are needed to bring the facility's finances under control.
State Auditor Marion Higa reported nearly five years ago that state prison guards averaged $22,000 a year in overtime and claimed sick leave an average of 27 days a year, compared with 10 days a year averaged by other state employees. One guard was paid more in overtime than in regular salary.
A year later, a union arbitration case revealed that guards at the youth facility were paid enormous amounts for overtime. One guard claimed to have worked for periods of 156, 126 and 88 consecutive hours.
A sampling of 20 youth-facility guards in Higa's latest report shows that they received an average of more than $20,000 in overtime for the 2005 fiscal year. One guard whose base pay was $36,494 received overtime pay of nearly $45,000.
Twelve of the 17 guards who worked all year took the maximum of 21 days for sick leave; the average for all 17 was just four hours short of that. One guard took the maximum in sick leave and an additional 60 days -- 12 weeks -- of compensatory time off in lieu of sick leave. Factor in the five weeks of state holidays and vacation, and the guard was away from work for a whopping five months of the year.
Higa and Matha T. Torney, who has been acting director of the state Office of Youth Services since Sharon Agnew's resignation on Dec. 1, agree that a high number of position vacancies contribute to the problem. The youth facility had 51 positions in 2003, and it had 54 guard positions during Higa's audit.
The Legislature has approved 19 youth-facility guard positions, bringing its staff position level to 74. In a letter responding to Higa's report, Torney said 11 positions are open, of which two are being filled this month and all but one are in various stages of being filled.
That should provide an important remedy, but state managers should be wary of a lingering culture of sick leave and overtime. A close monitoring will be needed to eliminate abuses.
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