County pays $52K in emergency overtime for storm that didn’t affect the Florida Keys

Monroe County paid out $52,000 in overtime to 110 employees who worked for two days preparing for Tropical Storm Laura, which did not affect the Florida Keys.

“The full County Commission did not vote to authorize or implement the county’s new emergency response pay,” Commissioner Craig Cates told Keys Weekly on Sept. 9. “It was a decision made by the executive committee the Friday before the storm approached. By 5 p.m. that Friday, the official forecast had moved the center of the storm way south, so we knew it wasn’t going to affect us, but we still paid more than 100 employees double time for working that Saturday and Sunday. 

“They never should have implemented that pay plan so soon,” Cates said. “That was one of my arguments the last time this overtime was an issue, but here we are again. And considering what others in this county are going through right now, this is a slap in the face to so many people who are truly suffering.”

The executive committee includes County Mayor Heather Carruthers, County Administrator Roman Gastesi, Emergency Management Director Shannon Weiner, County Attorney Bob Shillinger and Fire Rescue Chief Jim Callahan.

Weiner is the only executive committee member who received emergency response pay for Tropical Storm Laura, according to payroll records Keys Weekly requested and received from the county clerk’s office.

Weiner received $2,884 in double-time pay for 24 hours, according to the payroll records.

“Why are some salaried workers getting overtime for doing their jobs?” Cates said. Commissioner Michelle Coldiron said if employees work overtime, they need to be paid. County employees are paid time and a half for hours worked on emergency tasks during their usual 40-hour work week. Any hours worked on emergency tasks above the usual 40 hours are paid double time. 

“Storm preparation must be conducted in advance of a storm. Our crews had to go secure buildings and prep generators in the event Laura developed into a major storm,” Coldiron said. “At the same time, we are dealing with COVID, staff was working on preparing shelters as well as transportation for the special-needs community. It is the county’s responsibility to protect these assets. Thankfully the storm turned and the administrator was able to stop the emergency pay and call everyone back to work for normal operations.”

Five county employees waived their emergency overtime pay: Carol Schreck waived $563; Bryan Cook waived $437; Sheryl Graham waived $124; Christine Hurley waived $326 and Kelly Cummings waived $262.

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Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. She's married to a saintly — and handy — fisherman, and has been stringing words together in Key West since 1998.