A Los Angeles firefighter racked up an eye-popping amount of overtime pay last fiscal year, per an audit released Wednesday: $360,010. In fact, the audit by City Controller Ron Galperin reveals, more than 90% of sworn police and fire employees in the city got overtime (an average of $27,737). Some standouts: A traffic officer made $174,348 in overtime pay, a senior inspector at the Building and Safety Department made $152,163, and 18 Los Angeles Fire Department employees made more than $200,000. Base pay for city firefighters is $65,000 to $91,000. The "departments properly approved and substantiated the majority of sworn and civilian overtime," but "there is clearly a need for better oversight and regulation," Galperin wrote in a letter accompanying the audit, which has been sent to the mayor, city attorney, and City Council.
Considering the year of wildfires California's had, the fact that much of the OT went to firefighters is earning attention. Per USA Today, Galperin says overtime is a "critical tool" in protecting communities from not just fire but also crime and other emergencies. "We see its importance firsthand each time the city deploys firefighters around the clock to combat wildfires, like the catastrophic Getty and Woolsey fires," he says. Per the Los Angeles Times, an LAFD rep notes overtime is an integral part of its "constant staffing" model, adding that state and federal governments "almost entirely" reimburse the department for its wildfire efforts. The audit notes that just 40% of the city's general employees got overtime pay during the same time period, earning an average of $7,528. The Department of Water and Power, whose employees can also rack up significant OT, wasn't analyzed. (Read more California stories.)