COVID-19 Overtime Concerns in the Erie County Sheriff’s Office

 It is time for Erie County Sheriff Timothy Howard to provide a full accounting for the $441,655 in cash overtime that he allowed his political appointees to receive since March 12, 2020.  Of all of the overtime received by 54 Erie County managerial-confidential appointees during the COVID-19 emergency so far ($825,039), 50% went to the 13 appointees in the Sheriff Office according to the Erie County Comptroller’s data.  That is disproportionately high for one department. It has been reported that some of the funds went to cover overtime for the George Floyd protests and not the health crisis  brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic!

    Despite repeated assurances at an Erie County Legislature Finance and Management Committee meeting on July 14th from Erie County Undersheriff Mark Wipperman (the fourth-largest recipient of overtime) that his office would provide supporting documentation to justify and explain the expenditures, the Sheriff’s Office has not responded or provided any details regarding the work that was performed.

 At the Legislature’s committee meeting last Tuesday, my Caucus and I asked Erie County Sheriff’s Office representatives numerous questions about their use of overtime.  To date, NONE of the questions we posed have been answered. 

    In fact, at the hearing, Undersheriff Wipperman reacted angrily to questions and stated that he earned 473 hours of overtime in such a short amount of time because he was writing “policies.”

   Unlike other county departments, the Sheriff’s Office does not keep records of employee time in the County’s electronic time keeping system, and we have yet to receive a detailed breakdown of the tasks these administrators were working on.

    The Erie County Comptroller has called for scrutiny of the Erie County Commissioner of Health’s overtime, and the Poloncarz Administration has provided the legislature with records and her calendar.  The Sheriff’s Office needs to provide similar documentation so the public can begin to get a full picture of the duties and responsibilities of the Sheriff’s political appointees during this pandemic.

    If the Sheriff’s Office refuses to provide the promised information, I will file a Freedom of Information request and formal investigations will ensue.