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'Lineup pay' boosts managers' salaries Sheriff makes sure appointees get same benefit negotiated for union workers

Most of Erie County government's salaried appointees cannot collect overtime wages.

But Sheriff Timothy B. Howard gives his appointees overtime pay through a benefit negotiated for unionized workers.

"Lineup pay" was initially bestowed on Erie County's jail and prison staff to compensate them for showing up early to be briefed about inmate conditions each day.

Howard, as other Erie County sheriffs have done, gives the benefit to his salaried appointees, too. He does not expect them to line up with the rank and file.

They can collect 2.5 hours a week of overtime wages by starting their eight-hour shifts -- which include a paid lunch hour -- 30 minutes early.

Secretaries, special assistants, accountants and even top administrators already given cars and six-figure salaries can charge a half hour of overtime each day -- not necessarily because the workload demands more of their time but because the system lets them.

Because of an arbitrator's decision last decade, both union and non-union employees can collect lineup pay even when on vacation. The income ratchets up their pension payments when they retire.

County Executive Chris Collins hopes Howard limits lineup pay to the workers who play a role in shift changes at the Holding Center in Buffalo or the Correctional Facility in Alden, a Collins spokesman said.

But Howard is not likely to alter lineup pay. To him, his people deserve the benefit, which he says was first granted to the office's "management-confidential" employees more than two decades ago.

"The management-confidential must appear for work prior to the beginning of their shift in order to receive lineup pay," he told The Buffalo News by e-mail. "They routinely work more than 40 hours a week, which I feel is appropriate and necessary and, like union employees, they should receive some additional compensation for working extra hours."

Elsewhere in county government, the "M-C class" most often earns time off for extra hours, not time-and-a-half wages. But Howard says he wants to address the fact some of his appointees actually make less than their subordinates.

That's largely because their subordinates' can reap more overtime.

Howard says that, like Collins, he hires "the best and the brightest in management-confidential positions," and he expects them to "make themselves aware of all relevant events which occurred in their individual area of responsibility."

When he was undersheriff, Howard collected lineup pay, too -- $6,500 in 2004, his last full year as undersheriff before being elevated to replace Patrick Gallivan, who resigned to take a state job.

County payroll records show that last year:

* Howard's secretary received more than $2,000 of lineup pay, bringing her annual salary to $50,000.

* Public relations assistant Mary Murray received almost $5,000 in lineup pay, atop a $55,300 salary.

* Susan Darlak, the sheriff's special assistant who shares a home with him, received about $3,500, pushing her salary above $62,400.

* Brian D. Doyle, the chief of administrative services who was given a take-home vehicle and a $102,000 salary last year, received more than $9,000 in lineup pay.

* Undersheriff Richard T. Donovan, with a base salary around $105,000, pulled in more than $9,000 from lineup pay.

They are among the appointees who serve at Howard's pleasure and pour some of their earnings into his campaign fund. They do not have a contract but are governed by terms given to Teamsters Local 264, just as management-confidentials in other county departments are governed by terms given Local 815, Civil Service Employees Association.

The Teamsters represent Holding Center deputies and service employees. For starting their shifts 15 minutes early, the Teamsters collect 15 minutes of overtime. The same goes for CSEA-represented corrections officers in the county Correctional Facility in Alden.

Michael Szukala, the comptroller's top auditor, attended a Correctional Facility lineup in 2006, during an audit aimed at the Jail Management System's annual overruns of its overtime budget. Szukala said the briefing offered important information to the officers and seemed to be a proper use of tax dollars.

"When we witnessed a lineup at the correctional facility, they discussed things such as fights in the prison, things that, if you were a corrections officer, you would want to be aware of because your safety is at stake," he said.

The jail system's command ranks are given a half-hour of lineup pay daily, on the theory that they also need time to assemble the information. The sheriff then grants his appointees that better provision -- a half-hour of lineup pay -- at each employee's overtime rate.

"You see all these little things and you realize, so that's why government costs so much," said Lise Bang-Jensen, senior policy analyst with the Empire Center for New York State Policy, a research and advocacy organization based in Albany.

"Most people who are management-confidential employees should expect to work more than 35 hours a week," she said. "That's the nature of their jobs. That's why they are getting higher base salaries . . . management-confidential employees do not get overtime."

While MCs generally follow the terms of a union contract, it doesn't have to be that way. In 2005, then-County Executive Joel A. Giambra, with Legislature consent, forced management-confidentials countywide to pay a portion of their health insurance. Howard sees those 2005 changes as further justification for his appointees' lineup pay.

Collins sees the independently elected sheriff as authorized to enforce his department's time and attendance policies, his spokesman said.

"The county executive would hope that the sheriff exercises his ability to develop a new and separate MC policy for his top deputies and employees who clearly have no role to play in shift changes at the Holding Center or Correctional Facility," Collins aide Grant Loomis said.

e-mail: mspina@buffnews.com

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