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CATA denies access to overtime information

April 15, 2017

 

In her April 10 story, reporter Beth LeBlanc gives me credit for obtaining 2016 earnings information for her Lansing State Journal story "5 CATA bus drivers made more than $100K in 2016." She says the high earnings were due in part to an increase in overtime from 2015 to 2016. CATA actually did not provide overtime information, however. They gave me the hourly rate and the total 2016 earnings. I calculated the salary by multiplying hourly rate by 2080 (40 hours per week times 52 weeks) then subtracted the salary from total 2016 earnings. (My report is here.) We could only assume the excess was overtime pay.

 

In my original FOIA request, I asked for

 

Name

Department

Position/job title

Union affiliation

Salary/hourly rate

Date hired

Date terminated

Breakdown of 2016 earnings by category

Final leave payment (for terminations)

Total earnings for 2016

 

What I got was

 

Name

Department

Salary/hourly rate

Date hired

Date terminated

Total earnings for 2016

 

I also asked that the information be provided in digital form. Instead, I got it as a PDF file. I appealed, saying

Your response provided most of what I asked for. However, you said you could not provide the information in digital form. I find that impossible to believe. CATA would not be able to operate without personnel information being digital (computer files).

 

Also, you did not provide a breakdown of total 2016 wages for each employee. I am especially interested in amounts paid for overtime. In 2010, you provided the Lansing State Journal with overtime amounts. The December 12, 2010 article says that it came from W-2 reports:

 

CATA Director Sandy Draggoo denied my appeal saying

The Michigan Freedom of Information Act does not require a public body to make a compilation, summary, or report of information. Nor does the Act require a public body to make a new public record. Your January 11, 2017, request for information required CATA to make a number of compilations and summaries or reports and, thus, new public records. Notwithstanding this, CATA provided you with a compilation in its response on February 27, 2017, that provided most of what you had requested. CATA is not required to make further new records. Your appeal for a further breakdown of information is denied.

I accept that the information I requested does not currently exist in a document or file that can be turned over to me. I accept that a strict reading of the Freedom of Information Act allows my request to be denied. But really, how much trouble would it be to compile the information? Computer science has come a long way in the last few years. Couldn't someone there - such as that $77,255 a year Information Tech Services Mgr - sit down at a PC and pull a report together?

 

Not compiling the information might be a way to keep it away from the public, but you'd think CATA management would want the information for itself so that it could monitor payroll expenditures. I could be wrong on this, however. They seemed to be blissfully unaware until April 2016 that payroll taxes from 2014, 2015 and 2016 had not been filed with the IRS. For that, they paid $1.2 million in penalties and interest.

 

Bus drivers (operators) weren't the only ones whose earnings exceeded salaries. Sandy Draggoo's own 2016 earnings exceeded her salary by $23,697. Surely that wasn't overtime, so what was it? This is why we need the details.

 

Send comments, questions, and tips to stevenrharry@gmail.com or call or text me at 517-505-2696. If you'd like to be notified by email when I post a new story, let me know.

 

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