Target 5 Investigation: County fire dispatcher overtime - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Target 5 Investigation: County fire dispatcher overtime

A Target Five Investigation found the county's shelling out thousands of dollars in overtime payments to county fire dispatchers.

"I don't complain," said Dispatch Supervisor Roberta Ivory. "I'm just fortunate enough to have a job and be healthy enough to work the hours that I'm allowed to work."

As it turns out, Dispatchers are allowed to work a lot of hours, racking up almost $145,000 in overtime in just the last 18 months.

"It makes it very hard to explain to taxpayers that government is running efficiently when you hear numbers like that," said County Commissioner David Lillard.

Especially numbers for the top three earners. Since January 2004, Dispatcher Keshia Johnson earned nearly $87,000 including almost $18,000 in overtime.

We found another dispatcher earned more than 90 grand with $21,000-thousand in OT.

Former Shelby County employee of the year Roberta Ivory topped the list. Ivory earned nearly $112,000 in the last 18 months -- $42,000 from overtime.

"We need to more effectively manage the dollars that we have and not end up in a situation where we have individual people who are making more than everyone in County government but the mayor. That's not right," Lillard said.

Shelby County Public works Director Ted Fox, who oversees Fire Department operations, says right or not, the numbers work.

"The only thing I can do is do the math," Fox said. "The math that I have done shows me that when I use overtime in the dispatch office, I'm still under budget than if I had a full compliment."

That full compliment is 12 full time dispatchers. which Public Works hasn't had in years. Fox says the department averages just nine dispatchers at a time due to high turnover, sick leave and a three month hiring process.

And it's not just the money that worries the county's budget boss.

"Obviously they're putting in too many hours and if you're putting in that many hours in a critical public service position, that raises some serious questions," said County Finance Director Jim Huntzicker

Questions like can a dispatcher on duty for 12 hours remain effective at a job where every second counts?

"I would rather have a full compliment of people simply because it's a public safety function and people's lives and property come first," Fox said.

Which for now means shelling out big dollars for long hours at the dispatch desk.

In addition to the overtime, our investigation found the County paid out another eight grand for out-of-rank pay. That's when a regular dispatcher covers for a supervisor.

Right now, the County Fire department is up to 11 dispatchers, one shy of a full staff. Officials are working on filling that last slot.

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