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Wayne Township board to hold special meeting on fire department administration overtime issue

WRTV Investigates found administration charging OT
Wayne Township Fire Headquarters
Posted at 6:39 PM, Jun 17, 2021

INDIANAPOLIS — The elected Wayne Township Board will hold a special meeting Friday in direct response to a WRTV Investigation into the fire department administration’s overtime expenses.

The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. at 5401 W. Washington Street.

None of the township’s elected board members responded to an email from WRTV Investigates asking about the topic of the public meeting and how the community will be notified.

So, WRTV Investigates went to the township office Thursday to obtain a copy of the agenda, which says the board will hear reports from current Fire Chief Mike Lang and Trustee Chuck Jones.

“The board requested a special meeting to discuss what was aired on the news,” Jones said in an email to WRTV Investigates.

Jones is referring to two stories WRTV aired last week regarding the fire department administration’s overtime costs and overall compensation.

READ | Wayne Township Fire Dept. administration takes heat over overtime | New fire chief pledges change to pay system

WRTV Investigates found the former chief and his administration charged taxpayers for hundreds of hours of overtime despite their six-figure salaries.

Former fire chief Randy 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.

The Indiana State Board of Accounts, the state agency that audits local government, told WRTV they plan to look into the matter.

State lawmaker Rep. Renee Pack, D-Indianapolis, who represents Wayne Township released a statement this week.

“I would like to assure my constituents that I am committed to getting to the truth of this matter,” the statement read. “I am eagerly awaiting the findings of the State Board of Accounts, who will be looking into the reported overtime and activity of the Wayne Township Fire Department's former administration. It is our responsibility to ensure that our state and local agencies are putting taxpayer funds to their proper use – to protect the wellbeing and livelihood of our communities."

WRTV reviewed hundreds of pages of records and found Adams and his two deputy chiefs charged taxpayers 791 overtime hours in 2020, including attending meetings at the administration building before 8 a.m., after 4 p.m., and on weekends.

They also charged overtime for travel to places like South Dakota and North Carolina, including to inspect fire trucks. Records show Adams’ total compensation in 2020 was $190,345.

Deputy Chief of Administration Mike Lang’s total compensation in 2020 was $151,766 while Deputy Chief of Operations Stuart Sharp received $154,449 in total compensation last year.

"We had a pandemic,” Adams said. “We had stuff going on to keep progress going. With COVID we had 15,000 staffing hours lost due to COVID, and that's not counting regular workman's comp or sick time.”

But WRTV counted 567 of overtime for Adams, Lang, and Sharp in 2019 as well, before COVID-19.

WRTV: “Some are going to say that is why you already make a six-figure salary, so you don't have to charge overtime and that you already do make a fair salary.”
Adams: “That's a good question. It’s the way the system is set up right now. We aren’t salary exempt. We are eligible to get the overtime.”

Adams said he and his administration are hourly, and his interpretation of the union contract and rules and regulations is that the Wayne Township Fire Department’s administration can get overtime.

But Adams is retired as of May 21, and he says it’s now up to the township trustee and the newly appointed fire chief Mike Lang.

Township trustee, new chief vow to make changes

WRTV Investigates sat down with the new fire chief, Mike Lang, to talk about administration receiving overtime.

Lang had $14,445 in overtime last year on top of his six-figure salary of $129,807, records show.

Lang: “We spent a lot of time making sure our people were safe and all our shifts were covered, and we did work outside of our normal work hours quite a bit. "
WRTV: “Do you agree that this is COVID-related?"
Lang: “In 2019, it was more meetings and travel. 2020 would probably be more COVID related because there was less opportunities to travel for education."
WRTV: “Do you plan to continue this practice of overtime?”
Lang: “We are going to certainly re-evaluate our rules and regulations. Our current (union) contract, we are literally getting ready to start negotiations and this is certainly one of the topics we are going to discuss during the contract negotiation process.”

Chuck Jones, elected township trustee in Wayne Township, agrees they need to examine the administration overtime issue.

WRTV: “When you learned there's no other fire department in the state that does it this way, was that a concern to you?”
Jones: “That was alarming. I hadn't heard that before. We are going to figure out a way to do it in a different manner so we can get that addressed. We are going to take a look at it, and see what changes need to be made."

Very muddy”: Collateral pay among the changes in store for new chief

One of the changes Lang plans to make will be how the department distributes 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 said Tina Benson took on additional duties, including payroll.

Adams: “I chose to elevate her up to a division chief pay. She has a base salary like we all do. And the collateral pay is at my discretion. That’s why her pay is on level with the division chief. "
WRTV: “Collateral pay is at your discretion?”
Adams: “Staying within budget. Yes, it’s very broad. It gives me the discretion to put anybody in my administration whether they’re civilian or merit.”Adams paid himself $32,305 in collateral pay last year, records show.
WRTV: “Why pay yourself collateral pay?”
Adams: “Well that’s the basis of the fire chief’s pay. We start at the battalion chief’s pay and then add to it.”
WRTV: “Is there anyone who has to say OK yes or no?”
Adams: “No, there's not. My boss the trustee would have an issue if it's a budget breaker."

Adams said the fire department underspent its $39 million budget by $5 million.

Newly appointed chief Mike Lang says he plans to do things differently.

"I absolutely don't want to be the person that sets my own salary,” Lang said. “That needs to definitely be approved by the trustee or the board regardless of how that transpires."

Lang, when he served as Deputy Chief of Administration, got paid a total of $151,766 last year, $22,305 of which was collateral pay.

Lang said the practice of using collateral pay started around 2008.

“The only explanation I could really get is they used collateral to compensate for people that were working outside of their merit rank,” Lang said.

It’s varied by chief how collateral pay is documented and disbursed.

"Collateral pay was very complicated to me,” Lang said. “Very muddy. I didn't understand it."

Lang said he will work to establish a better explanation of how collateral pay can be used.

"That is certainly something that now that I have more influence I'll be working to clean up,” Lang said. “I don't think that should be so broad on me, or individuals. Collateral should be more transparent."

The Wayne Township Fire Department’s payroll is so complicated, it took months for WRTV Investigates to sort through.

"We've made it confusing,” Lang said. “It literally takes three days to do payroll."

Lang said he also plans to address the department’s payroll system as well.

As questions linger about pay, Lang said he will work to ensure taxpayer money is spent the best way.

"That's a very big portion of our responsibility is managing the taxpayer money,” Lang said. “I would place that as a very high emphasis on priorities."

MORE INFO | Fire administration in Wayne Township in hot water over overtime pay