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Problems with DPS overtime payment come up in budget hearings

fili@samoanews.com

Deputy Police Commissioner Leseiau Laumoli last week presented to the Fono joint budget hearings a written request for additional funds to cover among other things, police officers’ overtime, but the Budget Office says a previously approved allocation that includes money to pay overtime was used for other DPS purposes.

During the DPS FY 2013 hearing last Thursday, Rep. Larry Sanitoa wanted to know if the budget request included money to pay police overtime, which is an issue that has come to the Fono’s attention several times following complaints that overtime is not paid out.

Laumoli explained that it has been the norm that police officers not get paid for overtime work due to the lack of funds, despite the fact that there are many times throughout the year that officers worked around the clock — pointing to Flag Day events, when officers must continue to work overtime as enforcement officers.

He said the only time officers actually get overtime pay, is during holiday enforcement programs which are part of federal programs and funded with federal money, which includes overtime pay.

Sanitoa said his concern with DPS not paying overtime is with what occurred at LBJ Medical Center, where many employees had to be ‘re-paid’ after an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor found discrepancies in which employees were either under paid or not paid their overtime.

Sanitoa says he is not sure if the USDOL probe has reached DPS, but money needs to be allocated for overtime and to make sure that all overtime is paid.

Laumoli then revealed that a separate written request has been submitted to the chairmen of the Fono budget committees for consideration at a later time and the request includes money for overtime.

Sen. Galeai M. Tu’ufuli said that a  request for additional funds is an issue outside of the Fono’s jurisdiction when it comes to the annual budget and should have been addressed by DPS with Budget and Planning Office director Malemo Tausaga and the governor, since DPS is an executive department.

He said the Fono has a lot of love and care for DPS and their request, but his concern is that no matter what money the Fono reallocates to DPS for their needs, the governor has the authority to line-item veto such a budget item and that would defeat the whole purpose of the Fono trying to help DPS — or any other ASG department or office.

Galeai, a former police commissioner, also said the issue of overtime is important because it is an employee’s right to be paid for overtime work. He said overtime payment must be done or else DPS may end up facing the same situation as LBJ — being ordered by the federal government to make the correct payments to workers.

Malemo told lawmakers that $150,000 was allocated under approved legislation, which was also signed into law, to fund a police academy and pay for overtime; but DPS instead used the money to fund operations and nothing went to overtime.

“I have the record over here. So they used that money for their operations, but it was earmarked by the Fono for the academy and to pay overtime,” said Malemo, adding that he wanted lawmakers to understand that the approved money ended up being used to purchase supplies and other purposes.

There were no follow up questions to Laumoli as to the status of this $150,000 appropriation, which was enacted into law more than a year ago, and why it was not used to pay overtime.

Towards the end of the hearing, Laumoli informed lawmakers that the substation at Leone is expected to be opened soon and will be in need of additional officers. He said the request for additional funds includes gasoline expenses for DPS’ fleet, especially on the weekends. He reminded the Fono that DPS fleet operates 24/7 and there is always a need for gasoline.



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