ALBANY — New York had 17 state workers who were each paid for more than 2,000 overtime hours in 2017, state records showed — with one worker raking in an additional $154,000 in overtime alone.
Desmond Lewis, a treatment aide at the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens, topped the list. He got 3,600 hours in overtime last year — which comes to a remarkable 69 extra hours a week and earned him an extra $132,404 in pay.
Lewis was also one of 17 workers who each earned more than $120,000 in overtime alone last year, according to the annual disclosure of the top 30 overtime earners by the state Comptroller's Office.
The most went to Janet Johnson, a nurse at the Franklin Correctional Facility in Malone, Franklin County. She received about $154,000 in overtime last year, records showed.
Overall, overtime in state government jumped 9.7 percent between 2016 and last year: from $694 million to $761 million.
The largest dollar increase among state agencies was for the Division of State Police, where overtime soared 55 percent or by $26 million. State Police has expanded its role in recent years, including adding patrols in New York City at the request of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Morris Peters, a spokesman for the state Budget Division, said state spending on its agencies has remained flat since Cuomo took office and most have cut overtime.
"They all use overtime carefully and only when needed," Peters said.
"The alternative would be a larger, more bloated, more expensive and less efficient state bureaucracy that New York taxpayers simply can't afford."
Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has long warned state agencies to limit overtime.
"Overtime pay at state agencies jumped almost 10 percent in 2017 and keeps creeping upwards," he said in a statement.
"It is a challenge for state agencies to do more with fewer staff and tighter resources. State agencies need to make sure the overtime is justified and that employees are not clocking so many hours that they can't do their work safely."
Topping the list
Johnson received about $154,000 in overtime last year after accruing about 2,400 overtime hours in 2017 — which comes to an additional 46 hours a week for all 52 weeks a year, according to data obtained by the USA Today Network's Albany Bureau through a Freedom of Information request.
That was on top of her roughly $63,000 base salary, the records showed.
While Johnson received the most money in overtime, she only ranked eighth in overtime hours in 2017, according to DiNapoli's office.
Lewis was one of two state workers to get paid for more than 3,000 overtime hours; the other was a mental-health aide in Albany.
Neither Lewis nor Johnson could be reached for comment Tuesday.
The data of the top 30 overtime earners in state government included four from the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women in Westchester.
The four were nurses at the state prison, who each earned more than $100,000 in overtime last year.
Why the OT?
Unions have stressed that the high overtime for some workers is not the norm and indicative of the 24/7 nature of some state facilities, such at prisons and psychiatric centers. They have also urged the state to hire more workers.
The agency with the largest amount of overtime was the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, which had $221 million in overtime last year, up 8 percent.
State officials, though, have noted that the state workforce and spending by state agencies have stayed flat for years.
But proper staffing is needed to cut down on overtime, said Therese Assailian, a spokeswoman for the Civil Service Employees Association, the state's largest public-sector union.
"For our members in direct-care positions, mandated overtime takes a toll in many areas and leads to workplace injuries, disability cases and worker’s comp claims, all things that cost the employer more money," she said in a statement.