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State employees spending more than half the year on union leave

Several state union representatives spent more than half of the year working for their unions while still getting paid by the state, driving up overtime costs and putting an extra burden on the state budget.

The year of 2015 contained 261 working days but Ronald J. McLellan, president of the Connecticut Employees Union Independent SEIU local 511, spent 201 of those days on union leave. He earned $111,000 in pay and fringe benefits from the state while working for the union, and continued to keep his title of lead power plant operator at Central Connecticut State University.

Robert C. Augusta, president of the local 318 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, received compensation from the state for 214 days of 2015 when he was actually conducting union business. Augusta is employed as a payroll clerk with the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

Similarly Julius C. Preston is president of the CSEA Corrections Supervisors Council. In 2015, while employed as a captain in the Department of Corrections, Preston was compensated by the taxpayers for 186 days he spent working for the union. Preston earned a salary of $94,945 during 2015 and was promoted from lieutenant to captain during that time.

According to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, state employees spent 121,000 hours doing union work while being paid $4.1 million in taxpayer dollars. These figures do not include employees with the state’s colleges and universities.

Part of the costs associated with paying for union reps to conduct union business is that their union leave time is factored into their regular work week and contributes to overtime payments. For example, if an employee worked 30 hours at his or her job and then used 20 hours of union leave, they would be paid overtime for 10 hours that week. Overtime pay is factored into employee pension payments.

Also, the employee’s position must be filled while on union leave. This results in the state paying two people for one job and further adds to overtime costs. Darnell Ford, an employee at the Department of Children and Families, accumulated 93 days of union leave in 2015. That same year Ford received nearly $50,000 in overtime payments. Ford was recently featured in a SEIU television ad meant to protest state employee layoffs.

DCF spent $17.7 million on overtime last year, while the Department of Correction spent the most of any agency on overtime, topping out at $65.3 million.

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