Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Overtime Pay Tally Was over by $605,751, City Now Says

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Overtime Pay Tally Was over by $605,751, City Now Says

Article excerpt

PATERSON - A city-generated report on overtime pay that ignited heated exchanges among municipal officials and prompted some council members to demand investigations turned out to contain inaccurate information, the city's business administrator and finance director said on Thursday.

In a City Hall interview, the two officials said a review of municipal finance records revealed that the Public Works Department spent $167,435 on overtime in June 2014, not the $773,186 listed in the report that has been the subject of fierce public debate in recent weeks.

The two officials on Thursday provided monthly payroll records that seemed to support their explanation that the $773,186 number had been an error.

Neither Business Administrator Nellie Pou nor acting Director of Finance James Ten Hoeve could explain exactly how the $605,751 mistake had been made. They said the report had been compiled at the conclusion of the fiscal year on June 30, 2014, by an employee who retired at the end of that month. Pou and Ten Hoeve were appointed to their positions in July of that year, when Joey Torres took office as mayor.

"When I've been saying these are not our numbers, that's what I was referring to," said Pou. "We didn't do these numbers."

Pou said she had provided a copy of the report -- without checking its accuracy -- to then-council president Julio Tavarez when he requested overtime information last year.

Tavarez cited the numbers in the report - apparently without confirming their accuracy - in statements he has made at various public council meetings since then.

In July, three of Tavarez's colleagues joined him in demanding an investigation of overtime spending, based on the belief that public works employees had made $773,186 in overtime in one month.

Pou said she and Ten Hoeve met with Tavarez on Tuesday evening to alert him to the erroneous overtime data. Tavarez could not be reached for comment.

"I'm glad to hear that it wasn't so high," said Councilman Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman, who had backed Tavarez's previous criticisms regarding the public works overtime. …

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