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Overtime Bills Too Much, Audit Says

There's gold in gas pipelines, a city audit investigation has found — or in gas leaks, anyway.

A city auditor's report released last week says it's been too easy for city gas line inspectors, as well as workers for the contractor that repairs the city lines, to receive abundant overtime pay.

The report does not indicate that any wrongdoing was discovered, but concluded that the department needed to strengthen its internal monitoring of the gas and water line repair contract. "Current controls are conducive to overtime abuse by the City inspectors, as well as the contractor's crews," the report says.

Overtime pay has been a sensitive issue at City Hall, especially since it was disclosed earlier this year that the city has paid sheriffs' deputies up to $1.8 million annually, much of it in overtime, for security at municipal facilities.

An anonymous letter prompted the auditor's investigation. According to the auditor's report, the writer of the letter alleged that in 2004, the contractor for gas-leak repairs had developed strategies for "stretching the job" under the direction and approval of city inspectors. The report did not name the contractor or the city inspectors.

In 2004, one superintendent for the city contractor made $30,620 from seven weeks of work, $19,829 of which was in overtime pay, the report states.

The report also found that the overtime paid to four city gas inspectors accounted for 25 percent to 45 percent of their total earnings. In one inspector's case, he received $27,653 in overtime.

On "numerous occasions," the report says, inspectors worked more than 24 hours nonstop, which they're not supposed to do. On two occasions, the contractor's timesheets indicate they worked 40 hours straight.

Also, the report says, some work crews were paid just to be on standby at their shop during inclement weather. The policy of the department of public utilities is to keep crews on standby only when the weather is so bad that it would be too difficult for crews to respond to emergencies if they were sent home.

In the report, the department of public utilities says it's already responded by instituting daily reviews for work performed by gas leak repair crews, as well as looking at possible shift changes to reduce contractor overtime.

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