INDIANAPOLIS— The Wayne Township trustee and fire chief announced changes to compensation and overtime for fire department administrative staff during a special meeting held Friday evening in direct response to a WRTV Investigation.
Among the changes—effective immediately, administrative overtime will now require prior approval by the fire chief and the trustee.
WRTV Investigates found the former fire chief, Randy Adams, did not have to get his overtime approved by anyone including the township trustee and the township board.
Records show Adams and other administrators charged taxpayers overtime for sleeping while they were on trips out of state to look at fire trucks.
The township trustee announced Friday at the meeting he’s working with the board to pass a resolution that will re-classify the fire department’s administrator jobs so they will no longer be eligible for overtime pay.
WRTV Investigates dug through hundreds of pages of payroll records and found the former fire chief, Randy Adams, did not have to get his overtime approved by anyone including the township trustee and the township board.
Adams and his two deputy chiefs racked up 1,358 hours of overtime in 2019 and 2020 for a total of $113,290, records show.
In 2020, Adams got paid $190,345 including $41,860 in overtime.
Board chairman Charlotte Scott said she called the special meeting in direct response to WRTV Investigates’ findings including that the former fire chief and his administration charged taxpayers for hundreds of hours of overtime despite their six-figure salaries.
The township board approves the fire department’s budget, including base salaries.
“I did not know (this was happening),” said Scott. “We are expecting as the leader the trustee, the chief to do the right thing and it hasn't been happening. For me, this is very frustrating."
Paying fire department administration overtime is a practice so rare, we couldn’t find another fire department doing it.
WRTV Investigates found Wayne Township fire department’s administration overtime expenses included attending meetings at the administration building and for travel to look at fire trucks, including while they were sleeping.
That did not sit well with some board members.
“It’s not right,” said Scott. “I’m going to pay you for that? No, I’m sorry.”
With Randy Adams now retired as of May 21, some elected township board members questioned newly appointed fire chief Mike Lang.
“Did you not consider it dishonest getting paid to sleep, to charge anything especially at $90 dollars an hour?" asked board member Ramona Ward.
Lang said it was Adams’ interpretation that they could charge overtime if the hours they were traveling, sleeping, etc. fell outside their normal working hours.
"We put our hours in the way we were instructed to put our hours in by our boss," said Lang. “That was his interpretation of the way to do it.”
Lang said the administration was considered hourly, not salaried.
“It's not theft. It's not ghost employment,” said Lang. “We believe we followed the current rules and regulations, the current union agreement and Chief Adams interpretation of the overtime rules."
But some taxpayers are not buying it, including Clarence Ward, husband of board member Ramona Ward.
"They should have been fired,” said Clarence Ward. “That is pure theft of taxpayer money! I don't care how you justify it. It's theft of taxpayer money. It's gotta be stopped!"
Township trustee Chuck Jones and Chief Lang responded to Clarence Ward.
“It won’t happen again,” said Jones.
“You’ve got my word, you’ve got the trustee’s word, and we can only do that by holding true to our word,” said Lang.
The township trustee introduced a document which offered several steps to address the overtime issue including administrative overtime will now require approval from the chief and the trustee.
The fire department is also renegotiating its union contract, which expires December 31.
“This contract will eliminate the areas of concern we all share,” read the document.
The township trustee also vowed to increase transparency in township budgets by adopting actual salaries instead of using collateral pay.
Collateral pay is a pot of money in the budget, $344,408 in 2020, that the fire chief can allocate to fire department employees.
WRTV Investigates found a lot of variation in who gets what in terms of collateral pay.
Records obtained by WRTV Investigates show some firefighters received $1,000 in collateral pay, while others received tens of thousands of dollars, as high as $42,353 in collateral pay for the director of EMS.
Tina Benson, whose title last year was administrative assistant, received $38,963 in collateral pay for total compensation in 2020 of $127,285.
WRTV Investigates requested a set of criteria for distributing collateral pay, but it doesn’t exist.
Adams paid himself $32,305 in collateral pay last year, records show.
Board chairman Charlotte Scott said the board will meet soon in executive session to discuss a plan of action to hold the fire department and trustee accountable.
“I needed it to be on record them saying what they're going to do,” said Scott. “I need us to make sure that they do just that. So that's what they need to do."
The next board meeting is scheduled for August 12.