IDOT Minutemen Make Hundreds of Thousands in Overtime - FOX 32 News Chicago

IDOT Minutemen Make Hundreds of Thousands in Overtime

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Politicians say the state is tightening its belt, even as residents pay more in state taxes.

FOX Chicago News investigated the salaries of some of the state's transportation workers. Overtime payment at the Illinois Department of transportation has reached an all time high.

They're the guys in the bright yellow tow trucks you're happy to see when your car breaks down, or you get into an accident on the expressway.

But you probably won't be happy to learn those IDOT minutemen working Chicago highways are among the state's highest paid employees, thanks to their bosses' inability to manage overtime.

When asked if he could explain the incredible amounts of overtime, minutemen boss Tridgell said, "Well, I can tell you that the minutemen, they work very hard. It's a very dangerous job. They work around the clock, seven days a week."

Nobody disputes this is a tough and critical job. But the problem for taxpayers lies in the fact that minutemen salaries are budgeted at $62,000-$70,000 a year.

But we found the majority of minutemen based out of an IDOT garage in the shadow of U.S> Cellular Field are getting so much overtime, they're making more than $100,000 a year.

Altogether, 29 IDOT employees working here cracked six-figures last year. Three of those minutemen made over $140,000.

"Taxpayers should be outraged about this,” tax watchdog John Tillman said, “because what this shows is the lack of accountability and leadership in government."

Tillman said you can't blame the workers for taking the overtime. But you can blame their supervisors for not fixing the problem.

"Why does it cost the public sector, meaning the taxpayers, $100,000-$140,000 or more,” Tillman asked, “when in the private sector that work is done at the high end at 60-thousand dollars? And it's because this system is gamed to pay out this overtime."

We also found some of the biggest paychecks going to minutemen with the biggest clout. One of last year's top breadwinners is Erasmo Berrios, at $146,000.

He is the brother of Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios, who also heads the Cook County Democratic Party.

IDOT said union rules require them to hand out overtime based on seniority. Berrios is a senior employee.

While none of the IDOT brass would talk to us, a spokesman said the agency has to give out the overtime because state budget cuts will not allow them to hire more employees.

But if you do the math, and you'll see the overtime being paid to just ten workers could fund 11 more minutemen jobs.

"Why not show these numbers to state lawmakers and say, hey, we need X number of people to cut back on overtime?"

We asked Tridgell if IDOT could just show state lawmakers the number of employees necessary to cut back on overtime.

"We are working on addressing the overtime situation right now,” Tridgell responded. “That could include some additional hires. We're trying some route adjustments and different sort of management techniques to scale back on the overtime."

Tridgell said IDOT has been raising red flags with lawmakers. But when we showed our findings to Illinois House Minority Leader Tom Cross, he was surprised by the OT bonanza.

"Well it's startling to say the least,” Cross said. “And it's alarming this in a state agency is allowed to go on."

Cross said part of the problem is lawmakers have little input into the nuts and bolts of the state budget.

Now he wants IDOT to justify why state tow truck drivers are making more than state employees with Ph.D’s.

"You really need to start at the top of IDOT or literally up to the governor's office and say 'Why are you letting this go on?'” Cross said.

“You wouldn't let this go on in any business. You certainly wouldn't let it go on in your home. And it's an example of an inefficient government."

 

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