Twenty-three City of Gilroy public safety employees each racked up at least $20,000 in overtime last year, including five who hauled in more than $30,000 apiece, according to city salary figures.
The total more than doubled the slat of city workers, 11, who crossed the $20,000 threshold in 2010, while the city's year-over-year overtime costs for all employees jumped more than $135,000, according to the salary figures.
Gilroy City Council members offered starkly different opinions about the overtime spikes, while the GIlroy Police Department said the added costs came from two long-term, undercover police investigations and soon-to-be-remedied staffing issues at the city's emergency dispatch center.
"It's surprising to me," Gilroy City Councilman Perry Woodward said Monday after reviewing the figures, included in an annual compensation report recently posted on the city's website. "I think it's time we just look at the issue. I think we should probably take a fresh look at how we're utilizing overtime to meet our staffing needs."
Sgt. Chad Gallacinao of the Gilroy Police Department - GPD's public information officer, who earned $37,259 in overtime, second most of all city employees - said city police invested "a lot of time and staff hours" in two touted operations that wrapped up in the final quarter of 2011.
The 16-month "Operation Garlic Press" and concurrent, eight-month "Operation Royal Flush" netted more than 100 arrests, including scores of known gang members with violent, criminal pasts. GPD led both operations, with help from state and federal law enforcement officials, and California Attorney General Kamala Harris visited Gilroy City Hall in October to help trumpet the results from Operation Garlic Press.
Much of the GPD's 2011 overtime hours were spent making sure those in-depth, undercover investigations turned out results, Gallacinao said.
"In the long run, those investigations were invaluable to the community. Obviously, we were able to apprehend people who posed significant threats to Gilroy," Gallacinao said. He said that most of the overtime for police officers during Operation Garlic Press and money used to purchase cars, drugs and firearms undercover was reimbursed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The second gang sweep in late 2011 saw much of its overtime costs subsidized by the Drug Enforcement Association; cutting down on overtime costs paid out by the City of Gilroy.
The Gilroy Fire Department also was paid for its fair share of overtime last year - to the tune of more than $476,000 for all fire personnel.
Six of the city's nine fire captains earned at least $20,000 in overtime, with Timothy Price taking in $28,547, according to the salary figures. Fire engineer Anthony Holiday, who is retiring after more than three decades on the job, earned $24,214 in overtime in 2011 - the second most among fire personnel last year, and far more than $6,714 total in 2010. Holiday's base pay was just over $99,000 last year, according to the salary figures.
While Woodward said he understands the importance of funding public safety, he's hoping $30,000-per-employee in overtime costs are "an aberration."
"We need to study what's going on here," Woodward said. "If it's a one-time thing, we can understand that."
In contrast to Woodward, Councilman Bob Dillon said he has "no problem with it all," when asked about the increased overtime costs.
Dillon said the city will save money by paying overtime costs in lieu of hiring new employees, whom would receive salary and benefits. He said the current setup works fine because it's, "Only half as much money, and no benefits to dish out."
Councilman Peter Leroe-Muñoz also didn't take issue with the increase in overtime, but said he would advise city and police officials to work more closely to keep costs down. In the last few years, the city has asked local police "to do more with less," he said, adding the overtime associated with back-to-back, large-scale operations is "pretty typical of what you'd expect to see."
"Frankly, it seems like it was money well spent, in light of taking those gang members and drug dealers off the streets," said Leroe-Muñoz, who is a San Benito County deputy district attorney.
In regards to staffing issues, GPD is in the process of filling two full-time dispatcher positions, Gallacinao said. One current dispatcher, Mark Forry, earned $37,461 in overtime in 2011, the most of any employee and on top of his $82,542 salary, according to city salary figures.
The overtime costs will be "significantly reduced" after the department fills the two open positions, Gallacinao said. The dispatch center is made up of 15 employees in 2011, including a supervisor, trainee and senior public safety communicator, according to the salary figures.
"As far as right now, we're actively trying to work on staffing issues for our communications center," he said. "It operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year."
City Hall was closed Monday due to Presidents' Day.
Also included in the city's annual compensation report:
• The city's payroll grew by 6 percent in 2011, though staff increased by just one person to 332 total employees;
• Employees took home roughly an extra $560,000 in the second half of 2011 after a two-year furlough period ended July 1; city workers lost $1.2 million in 2010 because of furloughs;
• Gilroy Mayor Al Pinheiro and Councilman Dion Bracco were the only two Council members to take full health benefits, costing the city more than $17,000 each;
• Salaries for Pinheiro and the Council increased: Pinheiro's pay went from $11,815 in 2010 to $13,351 last year, while the Council's pay was upped from $7,873 to $8,897; the Council had accepted a 10 percent decrease in July 2009;
• The city paid out $197 in salary and $1,087 in benefits to former Councilman Craig Gartman, whose term ended in 2010. In December, Gartman was convicted of stealing more than $8,000 from a private Gilroy Memorial Day Parade fund;
Of the city's 332 employees, 12 were worth at least $170,000 in 2011 - taking into account salary, benefits, overtime, special allowances, Medicare and life insurance. Seven of the top 12 work for the Gilroy Police Department.
Police sergeants Gallacinao, Greg Flippo and Joseph Deras ranked second, third and fourth respectively in total compensation, with the city investing roughly $185,000 in each, according to the figures.
Gilroy's per capita income in 2010 was $28,527, according to the U.S. Census Bureaus' most recent data. The city's median household income was $71,340.
Gilroy City Administrator Tom Haglund was far-and-away the city's most compensated employee - at more than $225,000 in pay and benefits - which factors in roughly the $11,000 he lost in pay due to furloughs, according to the figures.
City Hall employees were furloughed on the first and third Fridays of each month from July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2011, when the Council passed new, two-year, furlough-free budget. Gilroy Fire Chief Dale Foster and Gilroy Police Chief Denise Turner ranked sixth and eighth respectively, according to city salary figures.