Although Gov. Peter Shumlin says it's too early to campaign, it's clear the Vt. State Police overtime scandal has become a hot topic in the gubernatorial race. Shumlin is using Sgt. Jim Deeghan's alleged abuse of the badge as an opportunity to stress his administration's openness.
"This administration will not tolerate taxpayers being robbed from in any way, shape or form. We've promised you transparency. We will give you transparency throughout this investigation," said Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont.
But his opponent says the alleged timecard fraud highlights a far broader issue in state government. In fiscal year 2011, the state paid workers $16.2 million in overtime cash payments.
"The first year in which the Shumlin administration was responsible for this number it was up 12.5 percent over the previous year. In the previous year, overtime went down one-tenth of 1 percent and the year before that it went down statewide for government employees 9.9-percent," said Randy Brock, the Republican candidate for governor.
Brock says thousands of hours of overtime for a single employee would never been allowed in the private sector and government should be no different. Brock gives state police and VTrans a pass for paying out high overtime due to the unpredictable nature of the workload. But he says for departments like the Vermont Lottery Commission, there's no excuse.
"Its overtime went up 160 percent between 2010 and 2011. And I don't think we had too many emergencies in our lottery operations," Brock said.
Brock says the problem is the direct result of a lack of leadership, accusing the administration of ineffective management and a failure to compare the costs of hiring with the price of overtime.
"It's very clear that at least on a statewide basis nobody is doing that analysis. We have lots of data. We have no analysis. We have no reporting. We have not probity. And it's the probity we need," Brock said.
It's important to note that during the Douglas administration hundreds of state jobs were eliminated. Many say that's the reason for the exorbitant overtime. Brock calls across the board layoffs the worst way to manage government. And although he says hiring could be an option, he wants analysis first of all alternatives to overtime. Brock admits there was an overtime issue in Public Safety when he was state auditor, but says his office wasn't charged with figuring out the problem.
We tried to get a response from Governor Shumlin. His staff said he was not available for comment.
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