City employees earning more than $100,000 a year would not be eligible for overtime pay during emergencies under rules endorsed Thursday by a New Orleans City Council committee in response to big overtime checks that went to top members of Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration after Hurricane Isaac in 2012.
The new policy, which won approval from the council’s Budget Committee without much discussion, will not apply to rank-and-file city workers who fall under civil service rules.
The only objection came from Raymond Burkart III, who represents the Fraternal Order of Police. He argued that police and fire personnel ought to continue getting overtime pay, regardless of salary, because of the important role they play and the extra duties they take on during emergencies.
“Even the deputy chiefs turn into patrolmen in many ways,” Burkart said. “They’ve got to go out there, they’ve got to be accountable, they’ve got to be seen, and they’ve got to do something if they see something going on.”
Nevertheless, committee members Stacy Head, LaToya Cantrell and Jared Brossett voted unanimously to send the new policy to the full council, which is expected to vote on the measure next week.
Changes in how emergency pay is doled out have been up for debate since shortly after Hurricane Isaac hit the Gulf Coast in late August 2012, hovering over the city for days and knocking out power to thousands of homes and businesses.
The complicated overtime formula in place at the time translated into checks of more than $10,000 each for many of Landrieu’s top employees, amounting to more than $235,000 overall. The windfall raised awkward questions for an administration dealing with a tight city budget, not to mention questions about what might happen during a more severe or prolonged emergency.
Under the new policy, salaried city employees who remain at their posts after the mayor declares an emergency would still get “emergency pay,” amounting to no more than one and a half times their typical weekly salary.
But those earning more than $100,000 a year would not be eligible to earn overtime pay at the same time, a factor that inflated pay checks by thousands of dollars in 2012 as top City Hall officials remained on the job around the clock until Isaac passed.