Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Board Approves Overtime Oversight Policy

New policy will likely bring the sheriff's office before the board to explain overtime expenditures.

By - Apr 26th, 2021 08:02 pm

Milwaukee County Courthouse. Photo by Sulfur at English Wikipedia [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Milwaukee County Courthouse. Photo by Sulfur at English Wikipedia (GFDL) or (CC-BY-SA-3.0), via Wikimedia Commons

The Milwaukee County Board recently adopted an ordinance that has its origins in Supervisor Ryan Clancy’s attempts last year to reduce the overtime budget for the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO).

The resolution does not reduce funding for the MCSO or any other county departments. Instead it creates a new oversight mechanism for the board that will likely require reporting on overtime throughout the year, not just during the budget cycle in the fall.

In 2020, Clancy proposed 15 amendments to the annual county budget that took funding directly from the sheriff’s overtime budget and put it into other county departments and services. All but one of the amendments failed to secure support for adoption, which was a proposal to eliminate funding for the MCSO app that county residents could use to report crimes.

But another amendment sponsored by Clancy and Sup. Shawn Rolland made it into the budget. It directed the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) to look into overtime policies for the county and develop a policy for departments to report overtime exceedances of $1 million or more annually to the board.

The department came back to the board in April with a proposal that the board amend the code of ordinances and require county agencies to report to the board’s Finance Committee if a net deficit of $100,000 or more is projected or if a $1 million or more deficit is projected for a department’s overtime budget. Even if a department is not showing an agency-wide deficit, because it has moved funds around to cover the $1 million deficit in overtime costs, it will still have to report to the board.

Clancy expressed his satisfaction with the policy proposed by DAS, calling it an “elegant solution.” Once signed into law by the county executive, it will give the board a mechanism for monitoring overtime spending throughout the year. 

The new policy will require departments to explain “the reason for the deficit and the department’s plans to offset the deficit,” according to a report by Joe Lamers, director of the Office of Performance, Strategy  and Budget. Once this occurs, it also requires follow-up reports on the status of the deficit or any changes to the plan for offsetting it.

When Clancy tried to reduce overtime spending in the sheriff’s office during the last budget process, it was revealed that between 2014 and 2020 the sheriff’s office overspent its overtime budget by $36.3 million. Figures released by the Office of the Comptroller at the time showed Sheriff Earnell Lucas, and his predecessor Richard Schmidt, had started to move funding from other parts of the budget to offset overtime expenses. David Clarke, who preceded them both, would simply exceed the overtime budget with no effort to offset the funding in other areas of the department.

When Clancy was attempting to reduce the sheriff’s overtime budget, he argued that he was going after “excessive, wasteful overtime for the sort of over policing that the county has said we don’t want and is not appropriate.”

Sheriff Lucas and his Chief of Staff Ted Chisholm argued that the office and its deputies were “stretched thin” and that the overtime pay was used to perform the agency’s statutorily-mandated core functions.

Given that the sheriff’s office regularly exceeds its overtime budget, it will likely be one of the county agencies affected by the new policy change. The ordinance also gives supervisors like Clancy the potential to use this new oversight process to more regularly question how the sheriff’s office is spending its overtime.

Categories: MKE County, Weekly

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