BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — On Tuesday, outgoing Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw released a statement saying “Dr. Gale Burstein has been paid a combined total of $336,148 in overtime and comp time for 2020 and 2021.”
According to the actual report, that is not 100% accurate. It details that is the total amount of overtime, comp time and holiday paid through her entire tenure as heath commissioner, which began in 2012.
According to the report, her pandemic-related overtime, holiday pay and comp time for the past two years-2020 and 2021 totals $284,857.
The Poloncarz Administration says she is not a salaried employee and is entitled to all of it.
In its report this week, the comptroller’s office accused Dr. Burstein of not being eligible to collect that money.
7 Eyewitness News took that question to Tim Hogues, the Personnel Commissioner for Erie County, appointed by County Executive Mark Poloncarz .
Hogues says Dr. Burstein is not a salaried employee, even though her salary is a fixed rate. She is set to make more than $209,000 in base pay in 2021. Dr. Burstein is considered by the county as a “managerial confidential” employee, required to work a minimum 40 hours a week to get paid.
Hogues says Dr. Burstein gets paid an hourly rate and therefore is eligible for overtime. He says prior to the pandemic, it was encouraged these managerial employees not collect overtime but he says the pandemic changed that.
He pointed to a 2010 budget resolution passed by the county legislature at that time that states managerial employees are to follow the CSEA contract. In the CSEA contract, there is a line that reads anyone who is required to have a medical degree as part of their job would not be allowed to collect overtime.
Hannah Buehler took this question to Hogues.
Buehler: “We heard from the County Executive she is not a CSEA member but still follows the contract.”
Hogues: “Right, right”
Buehler: “The CSEA Contract says someone who’s required to have a medical degree as part of their job is not eligible for overtime.”
Hogues: “And so once again there are portions of that CSEA contract that we follow there are certain carve-outs that we do not follow and that were not spelled out in the 2010 legislative decision that took place at the county legislature, and so once again we would be in violation if we did not pay our employees overtime for hours that they worked according to the Fair Labors Standard Act.”
Hogues says it was unreasonable to expect managerial employees such as the health commissioner to work standard 40-hour work weeks during the pandemic because of the severity of the situation.
The county executive’s office tells 7 Eyewitness News the overtime figures stated in the comptroller's report are not accurate. We have asked the county executive's office to provide us with its own overtime figures for the health commissioner. A spokesperson says they are still looking into it and will send the OT numbers for all county employees when he receives it from personnel.
The Erie County Legislature has had this issue of overtime for managerial confidential employees on the docket since July 2020, but it has never been followed up on. Minority leader Joe Lorigo says it was scheduled to be discussed but postponed.
We reached out to democratic majority leader April Baskin's office about this as well and are waiting to hear back.