Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
Over eight months, Santa Fe city government has either declined, or been unable, to provide solid information on how much its police officers are paid in overtime.
The city refused an initial request by the Journal North, in January, to provide numbers for overtime hours and pay for each of the previous three years, saying city government had no record that shows that information and would not create a record that would.
The city eventually provided a spreadsheet document with more than 19,000 data points – individual, separate payments to police officers in 2018.
The city subsequently would not confirm whether the Journal North’s analysis of the spreadsheet had provided accurate numbers for total overtime pay for 2018 or for the OT paid to each officer that year. The Journal submitted additional requests, with different wording, under the state Inspection of Public Records Act, trying to get the information.
Last week, the Journal North revisited the issue and informed the city’s public information officer, Lilia Chacon, that the newspaper intended to publish a story about the longrunning back and forth between the city and the newspaper over SFPD’s overtime totals.
Chacon subsequently provided documents that appear to provide conflicting numbers.
One is a chart that provides “grand totals” for 2016 through 2019, apparently for July-through-June fiscal years instead of for calendar years.
For 2019 – that fiscal year ended on June 30 – the grand total listed on this document is $1.514 million. For 2018, the total shown is $1.689 million.
Those figures are not far from the overtime pay total that the Journal North was provided by City Hall – hassle free – four years ago for the 2015 fiscal year, which was $1.520 million. At that time, the city released a document with the grand total, and how much overtime and holiday pay each officer had received for the fiscal year.
The other document released by City Hall last week provides overtime pay for each officer in 2018 and showing a grand total of $3.7 million, the same amount the Journal North calculated from the spreadsheet released earlier this year.
The newspaper was not confident its calculation was totally accurate because the spreadsheet provided by the city had deviations from a standard Excel document.
While the two documents provided by City Hall last week appear to apply to different time periods – one for fiscal years and one for just the 2018 calendar year – there’s no way both can be accurate. Adding the 2018 and 2019 grand totals from the chart that apparently refers to fiscal years only gets to about $3.2 million in OT over two full years, still well below the $3.7 million that the other document shows when the overtime pay for each officer is totaled up just for 2018.
The Journal North has also asked repeatedly how or whether the city develops an annual budget without ready access to a solid number for something as basic to city operations as police overtime.
In one email, the Journal North asked these questions:
• “Would it be correct to say the city’s finance and police departments maintain no record of total police overtime paid each year?”
• “If the city doesn’t keep such a record, how does the city budget for police overtime, or the police department budget, or the city’s overall budget if it doesn’t know how much police overtime is generated on an annual basis? It’s not an insignificant chunk of money.”
Asked about that issue again last week, Chacon said via email: “The problem is not that we don’t have the info, the problem is getting that info boiled down into your very simple and reasonable request.”
Chacon indicated in an email late last week that she was still trying to get clear numbers on police OT.
Police overtime in Santa Fe was an issue several years ago. Ray Rael, who was police chief before former Mayor Javier Gonzales took office in March 2014, had changed officers’ weekly work schedules from four 10-hour days to standard five 8-hour days in an effort to reduce overtime.
Overtime went up by $122,000 in seven months after the Gonzales administration went back to the police work schedule with the three-day weekends that officers preferred and by $280,000 in the first full fiscal year after the return to “four tens” work weeks at the SFPD.