Montgomery County officials are looking into why the Department of Transportation had a nearly 10 percent climb in overtime during the last fiscal year.

The county paid nearly $900,000 more in overtime to the DOT, for a total of $7.9 million in overtime in fiscal 2009, according to county data. The department, which employs about 1,400 people, used 228,000 hours of overtime during the last fiscal year, up about 20,000 hours from the year before.

After years of soaring overtime costs, County Executive Ike Leggett has made reducing overtime pay a priority, and the county's oversight program, CountyStat, tracks each department's overtime use each quarter, said Chris Cihlar, a manger of CountyStat.

The county is "really trying to make sure that overtime is not abused," Cihlar said.

Cihlar said the county was planning meetings with DOT heads to discuss why its overtime use has gone up.

DOT spokesman Tom Pogue said much of the overtime increase could be attributed to the department's decision to in-source Ride On operations, of which a "big chunk" was previously run by a private contractor.

Cihlar said the county's public safety departments have made strong gains in decreasing their overtime use, but there were still some structural obstacles -- like the fire department having more higher-paid captains on the payroll than lesser-paid lieutenants on its payroll to fill critical needs -- that are preventing a bigger decrease.

The fire department's overtime pay dropped more than $2 million the last fiscal year. But three fire captains were among the county's highest earners, pulling in more than $95,000 in overtime pay last year. One fire captain made $119,111.50 as salary and $116,794.54 in overtime, making him the second-highest-paid county government employee last year behind Chief Administrative Attorney Tim Firestine.

A 2008 report by the county's inspector general, Thomas Dagley, found that the fire department's overtime compensation rose by 47.5 percent, from $11.9 million to $17.5 million, in a three-year period beginning in 2004. The report added that the county's overtime policies created an environment that was "vulnerable to abuse."

start_blockquote right> Top-paid firefighters in Montgomery County

Capt. William Richards: Salary: $119,111.50 Overtime: $116,794.54

Capt. Gregory Ruff: Salary: $118,862.29 Overtime: $95,259.71

Capt. Patrick Stanton: $117,449.20 Overtime: $95,758.61

Battalion Chief Robert Close: $129,610.98 Overtime: $83,416.93


Source: County records