Cashing in on overtime

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7 East workers paid total of $30,858 in overtime

By Mercy Lopez

Las Vegas City Schools may be strapped for cash this school year, but that hasn’t kept the district from paying out thousands of dollars in overtime to a handful of its employees.

Most of that overtime was paid to a few staff members at Central Office, according to an overtime report released to the Optic last month in response to a request under the state’s open records law. The report includes overtime paid from July 1, the beginning of the fiscal year, until Jan. 29, which is prior to Superintendent Sheryl McNellis-Martinez being stripped of her superintendent duties. McNellis-Martinez declined to comment on the overtime pay when contacted by the Optic on Thursday.

Karen Armijo, the assistant director of finance, walked away with the highest overtime pay, earning $9,621. Coming in a close second is Kathryn Denise Baca, who is in charge of the district’s E-Rate program and also helps out with human resource matters. She took home $7,353.

In all, about 40 Las Vegas City Schools employees have taken home overtime pay this fiscal year, costing the district just slightly more than $41,000. But the vast majority of that overtime pay — $30,858 — went to just seven employees.

The district’s PED approved budget includes $22,500 in overtime for all district employees, which means that the district has already overspent its budget in this category by $18,563.

The total amount of overtime paid so far is close to the salary paid to a level two-teacher’s salary.

Board President Gloria Lovato Pacheco said the board has directed interim Superintendent Lydia Flores to suspend all overtime unless it relates directly to the health and safety of students and staff.

“Interim Superintendent Flores is working on the (overtime) issue and will come up with a plan to remedy the situation,” Lovato Pacheco said.

Under federal law, overtime pay must be at least one and a half times an employee’s regular pay.

Lovato Pacheco said the board has also asked Flores to stop federal programs spending unless it is pre-approved.

District officials have said they have yet to be paid for  numerous requests for reimbursements submitted to the state Public Education Department since 2007. District officials for years have said that the fiscal issues that have plagued it are due, in large part, to the fact that Las Vegas City Schools hasn’t been reimbursed for money it spent on federal programs.

Flores did not respond to messages left for her seeking comment on why the overtime was needed and who approved it.

District staff said she was busy on Wednesday with several meetings and out of town on district business Thursday morning.

Besides Armijo and Baca, the other district staff members paid more than $1,000 in overtime are:

• Marvin E. Shelton, who works in maintenance and is a bus driver, was paid $4,624;
• Charlene Jiron, the administrative assistant to the superintendent took home $3,426;
• Darlean Urban, a payroll specialist, earned $2,476.
• James Montoya was paid $2,241. The district’s website lists a James Montoya as working in maintenance.
• John Tate Fernandez earned $1,117 in overtime. A 2012 salary list posted on the Rio Grande Foundation’s website lists Fernandez as being a bus driver for Las Vegas City Schools.

It’s unclear why the overtime was needed, although the district has been trying to get caught up on its audits for years.

It’s also worth noting that both Baca and Jiron attend lengthy board meetings to record meeting minutes. Maintenance personnel, meanwhile, are required to make sure that school grounds are safe for students and staff and often put in extra hours clearing snow.

Others collecting overtime, according to the list: Annie Abeyta ($781), Mario Baca ($101), Raymond D. Baca ($52), Cindy M. Browning ($645), Areli Montiel Cabrera ($450), Orlando Chavez ($704), Elba Gold ($326), Yvette R. Gomez ($353), Cleo J. Gonzales ($766), Clyde R. Gonzales ($159), Michael A. Helm ($71), Alberto M. Lopez ($57), Joe Domingo Lucero ($157), Patsy D. Lucero ($62), Roman L. Lucero ($173), George P. Lujan ($97), Richard J. Martinez ($83), Sarah Martinez ($778), Larry J. Ortiz ($79), Ruth Anna Pulaski ($135), Dominico R. Quintana ($96), Bernadette Quintana-Martinez ($8), James P. Romero ($473), Johnny Saiz Jr. ($741), Ronald F. Salazar ($71), Gilbert A. Sanchez ($22), Patricia A. Sanchez ($479), Cynthia M. Sandoval ($467), Christine Silva ($321), Shirley A. Solano ($457), Bernadette A. Trujillo ($821), Evelyn S. Trujillo ($163), and Manuel L. Trujillo ($58).