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Wayne Township fire administration takes heat over overtime

Ex-chief and deputy chiefs had 1,358 hours of OT in 2019, 2020
Posted at 5:00 PM, Jun 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-18 21:38:16-04

INDIANAPOLIS — A former fire chief in Wayne Township and his administration are taking heat and questions about their overtime pay.

WRTV Investigates uncovered Randy Adams and his two deputy chiefs racked up more than 1,358 hours in overtime in 2019 and 2020, totaling $113,290.

Records obtained by WRTV Investigates showed Adams and his administration charged taxpayers overtime for travel to inspect fire trucks and to attend meetings at the administration building.

WRTV started getting questions back in February about the Wayne Township Fire Department administration and what some called an excessive amount of pay they received in 2020.

It’s taken WRTV Investigates Kara Kenney months to file records requests and review hundreds of pages of documents, and what we found is raising eyebrows and prompting changes.

“It’s outside my normal business hours,” former fire chief says about his overtime

When you think of firefighters, you probably think of rushing to the scene of a burning building, putting out fires, and saving lives.

For Wayne Township’s fire administration, they do less fire-fighting and more office work, like overseeing budgets and personnel.

It’s the administration’s compensation that’s getting some heat, including Randy Adams, who served as fire chief from 2019 up until he retired on May 21, 2021.

Records show in 2020, Adams got paid $190,345 including $41,860 in overtime.

That’s 421 hours of overtime for Adams last year, 80% of which was not related to covering shifts for firefighters.

WRTV counted more than 100 hours of overtime for attending meetings with staff.

Adams said his hours as chief were 8 am to 4 pm, so a meeting held at 6 am, 4 pm or on a weekend was considered overtime.

WRTV Investigates Kara Kenney: “Can you understand why this raises eyebrows?”
Adams: “Anytime you see salaries up that high I would imagine it would raise an eyebrow.”
WRTV: “Are you salaried or are you hourly?”
Adams; “I'm hourly.”
WRTV: “Why charge taxpayers to go to meetings?”
Adams; “Well, it’s outside my normal business hours.
WRTV: “Why schedule them outside of your normal business hours?”
Adams; “Some of them we weren’t able to have during the day.”

Records show Adams’ salary last year was $140,192.

Adams also charged overtime for three trips he took with several fire department employees to North Carolina and South Dakota.

For example, on March 1-3, 2020, Adams traveled to Brandon, South Dakota with two lieutenants and a mechanic for a final inspection on three new fire engines.

Randy Adams claimed 49 hours of overtime for that March 1st through March 3rd trip to South Dakota, records show.

WRTV: “Did that include sleeping?”
Adams: “Anytime we were gone, yes.”
WRTV: “So, you counted sleeping, eating, driving from the time you left to the time you got back?”
Adams: “If it was outside normal business hours.”
WRTV: “So you weren’t counting 8 am to 4 while you were there, but everything else you were counting?”
Adams: “Yes.”
WRTV: “Some taxpayers might say why charge overtime to go look at fire trucks?
Adams: “It's outside the normal working hours. Everyone should be fairly compensated. Everyone who went on the trip was fairly compensated.”
WRTV: “Some will say, you're already making six figures. Why do you need to charge overtime on top of that?”
Adams: “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 were hourly, not salaried or salary exempt.

WRTV Investigates checked with other fire departments including Indianapolis, Pike Township, Fishers and Carmel and their administrations are all salaried and not eligible for overtime.

So, we asked the state fire union, the Professional Firefighters Union of Indiana, about local fire departments paying their administrations overtime.

"I never heard of any fire department in the country that allows such a practice,” said Tom Hanify, President of the Professional Firefighters Union of Indiana in an email to WRTV.

WRTV: “What do you say to that?”
Adams: “I don’t work for them. Just because it's different doesn't mean it's wrong"

With the pandemic, Adams said it took extra hours to administer the fire department.

"With COVID we had 15,000 staffing hours lost due to COVID, and that's not counting regular workman's comp or sick time,” said Adams.

New fire chief weighs in on overtime issue

Mike Lang, as deputy chief of administration, had $14,445.62 in overtime last year, on top of his $129,807 salary, records show.

Lang was appointed Wayne Township’s new fire chief last month following Randy Adams’ retirement.

"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,” said Lang.

Lang pointed out overtime is time and a half and is based on salary, so it doesn’t take much for it to add up for administration.

“My overtime rate is about 90 dollars an hour,” said Lang.

Lang said the overtime was a good use of taxpayer money.

“We are all union members, we are all represented,” said Lang. “Policies are in place, we follow those policies. Our main objective is we are given a budget to operate within and we operate within that budget, and ultimately we came in under that budget.”

The fire department came in $5 million under its $39 million budget last year, Lang said.

“We restructured 10 major contracts that saved the community half a million dollars a year,” said Lang.

Overtime for administration in 2019

But WRTV Investigates uncovered administrative overtime in 2019, well before COVID-19.

Adams, Deputy Chief of Administration Mike Lang, and Deputy Chief of Operations Stuart Sharp had 567 hours of overtime in 2019 totaling $40,285.

In 2019 and 2020 combined, the three chiefs claimed 1,358 hours of overtime totaling $113,290, records show.

WRTV: “You also had overtime in 2019, before COVID?”
Adams: “That’s correct.”
WRTV: “What were you doing during those hours?”
Adams: “Additional meetings, there was some travel then too. And some classes.”
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.”

Taxpayers, firefighters respond to administration overtime

The decision to pay fire department administration overtime isn’t sitting well with some taxpayers, including Wayne Township resident Gene Konzen.

"I just find that not a very good use of our funds,” said Konzen. “It's unethical to pay yourself more than you should."

Konzen served as Wayne Township’s fire chief for 10 years including 2011 through the end of 2018.

WRTV: “When you were the chief, did you get overtime?”
Konzen: “Absolutely not. When you're the fire chief, it's pretty much 24/7. It's not a set time.”
WRTV: “Were you salaried or hourly?”
Konzen: “Salaried.”

Konzen’s compensation in 2016 was $116,699, $117,520 in 2017 and in 2018 he received $137,308, according to Gateway’s online compensation portal.

Konzen said the higher amount in 2018 was due to a payout for unused vacation time.

Konzen’s successor as fire chief, Randy Adams, said the township board never established the fire administration as salaried or notified administration they’re salaried.

Adams also pointed to language in Wayne Township’s union contract, as well as their rules and regulations, that he said allows the administration to receive overtime.

But Konzen and current firefighters we spoke with said Adams’ interpretation of those documents is flat out wrong.

“I was kind of shocked,” said Konzen. "Even if you're under budget, paying yourself more than you're supposed to is wrong. That money could have easily been used."

Retired Wayne Township firefighter Ted Ritchie agrees.

"It bothers me,” said Ritchie. “I know so many people who are struggling to make ends meet and to hear that people are just doing what they wanted with this budget with their overtime. I don't see how that really serves the community and how it's really justifiable."

Ritchie said the fire department needs more oversight.

"The whole thing about serving the public, it needs to be transparent,” said Ritchie.

Elected township trustee didn’t have to approve overtime

The township board approves the fire department’s budget.

WRTV: “Who approved the overtime for you? Did anyone approve it? The board?”
Adams: “No, I just put my time in.”
WRTV: “So, there was no oversight?”
Adams: “Other than Mike (Lang) going through the weekly budget and payroll.”

Township trustee Chuck Jones appointed Adams as fire chief.

The trustee has to review expenditures over $5,000, but Jones said he does not have to approve overtime for firefighters.

"I knew there was an excessive amount of overtime here and within the department,” said Jones. “I knew Randy and Mike were working a lot of overtime. I talked to them on a regular basis.”

Trustee Jones said it’s a good use of taxpayer money.

"These guys are worth every dime they're making,” said Jones. “How much is too much money? Hell, I don't know!"

Department moving forward under new leadership

With Adams retired, Wayne Township firefighters are now working under a new chief, Mike Lang.

They’re still fighting fires and saving lives, but with lingering questions about how tax dollars are spent.

The elected township board members have not provided answers or information despite several emails from WRTV Investigates since February asking questions about administration overtime and whether they’ve ever taken action on their status as salaried or hourly employees.

The Indiana State Board of Accounts, the state agency that audits local government, plans to look into Wayne Township administration’s overtime in the coming months.

The SBOA will likely be able to determine if the overtime was allowed.

Adams is confident they did nothing wrong.

"We will stand by everything we did,” said Adams.

How to file a complaint regarding your overtime

If you have a concern about your own pay or overtime at your employer you can file a claim here with the Indiana Department of Labor.

The Indiana Department of Labor can help resolve disputes between employees and employers.

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Indiana Minimum Wage Law require companies to pay workers 1½ times their regular rate of pay when employees work more than 40 hours during a workweek.

However, there are exceptions to the overtime pay requirements of both federal and state law.

Most of the exceptions to Indiana state law can be found here.

If you have questions, contact the U.S. Department of Labor at (317) 226-6801 or the Indiana Department of Labor at (317) 232-2655.

Friday, June 11, on the News at 6:00 p.m., you’ll hear from the trustee and the new fire chief on the changes they plan to put in place to address the issue of administration overtime.

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