Filed Under:  Local, News

Mayor’s top staff didn’t see pay bump during Tropical Storm Karen

14th October 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Charles Maldonado
The Lens

The City of New Orleans’ highest paid employees, who together made hundreds of thousands of dollars in extra pay during Hurricane Isaac in 2012, will not see the same pay boost for Tropical Storm Karen, Mayor Mitch Landrieu said at a City Hall press conference on Friday, October 4 before the storm was due to make landfall.

Chief Administrative Officer Andy Kopplin pointed out that some of that extra money was “emergency pay” for employees who are required to work even though City Hall is closed. During an emergency declaration, those employees are paid time-and-a-half according to the emergency-pay schedule.

“We do not anticipate a City Hall closure” during Karen, Kopplin said.

But even if it did, the Landrieu administration has issued new guidelines for emergency pay, he said. Under the guidelines, “high paid professionals” who make approximately $100,000 or more per year will no longer be eligible for emergency pay.

But they will be eligible for “emergency overtime pay,” also paid at time-and-a-half, if they work more than 40 hours in a week.

Responding to a question from The Lens during the press conference, Landrieu said that highly paid employees did not earn hundreds of thousands in extra pay during Isaac, calling the figure “extraordinarily high and wrong.”

But last year, a Fox 8 News investigation revealed that members of Landrieu’s executive staff, called in to work as essential employees while City Hall was shut down, collectively brought in more than $200,000 in combined emergency pay and emergency overtime pay. They were paid time-and-a-half for working under 40 hours a week, and twice their hourly pay for anything over that.

The six deputy mayors, whose average annual salary exceeds $150,000, accounted for more than $100,000 of that, according to the report.

Normally, those salaried executives, who don’t work in public safety, are not eligible for overtime. But Civil Service rules adopted after the 2010 BP oil spill extend both types of pay to any city employee.

Fraternal Order of Police spokesman Raymond Burkart, who criticized that pay after Isaac, said only public safety employees should be eligible for emergency and emergency overtime pay.

“The New Orleans Police Department operates completely differently during an emergency,” he said. “The superintendent on down are on the front lines. The captains are on the front lines, and God knows the blue shirts are on the front lines.

“There’s nothing essential about deputy mayors. We have gone through numerous catastrophic hurricanes, without deputy mayors. We do not believe the deputy mayors need it.”

The New Orleans Civil Service Department recommended changing the rules late last year following media reports on Isaac. The Landrieu administration and the department’s staff rolled out specific proposals in April.

But after requests for delay from the administration, the matter has not yet to come to a vote before the Civil Service Commission.

This article was reported by The Lens, an independent, nonprofit news site in New Orleans. The Louisiana Weekly enjoys a partnership with The Lens.

This article originally published in the October 14, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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