40-year-old policy allows Opelousas local elected officials to gain overtime

Reggie Tatum ( The Daily World)
Reggie Tatum ( The Daily World)

OPELOUSAS, La. An administrative order from 1974 says the mayor of Opelousas and other city employees are allowed to gain overtime when called to perform duties other than their job description, but only when approved by the mayor and the city council.

A copy of the administrative order was obtained along with Opelousas Mayor Reggie Tatum’s time sheets that showed Tatum worked 16-hour days, sometimes more, for the 21 days the Opelousas Civic Center shelter was open because of the August flooding. That’s a total of 234 hours of overtime work.

The documents were released after a preliminary payroll document that showed the mayor receiving $12,972.96 in overtime was leaked on Facebook last week, causing citizens to file complaints with the district attorney’s office and local law enforcement agencies because the mayor is a salaried public official. Tatum had previously stated FEMA regulations allowed for city employees to be repurposed and that repurposed employees could receive overtime.

The administrative order also says that approval must be sought in each case and must be obtained either prior to the overtime work or, in cases of emergency, immediately after.

However, many of the city council members said they were never asked to approve Tatum’s hours.

“We have never spoken about it,” said Councilman Blair Briggs.

Further, this type of overtime is limited to 20 percent of the total work hours for each given work week.

In the three pay periods prior to the shelter opening, time sheets show Tatum worked eight-hour days, Monday through Friday, with no overtime. Every other period, he also received an additional $665 for his car allowance. On his personal payroll sheets, it specifies that Tatum’s salary hourly rate is $36.96 an hour. This coincides with a city ordinance from 2015 setting the mayor’s annual salary as $75,000 and a monthly allowance of $665 as mileage compensation.

Tatum’s first day of overtime was Saturday, Aug. 13, the first day Opelousas and St. Landry Parish began to flood, on which he logged 20 hours. The next day, Sunday, and every weekend day following, he would log 16 hours of overtime. On Saturday, Sept. 3, the last day the shelter was open, he only logged 14 hours overtime. On week days, his time sheets reflected he would work eight hours of regular work and eight hours overtime.

The administrative order also says that approval must be sought in each case and must be obtained either prior to the overtime work or, in cases of emergency, immediately after.

Also, the two time sheets from during the time the shelter was open are unsigned by Tatum.

Tatum also did not receive payment for any of the overtime until Sept. 8, once all of the overtime had accumulated. He received a one-time payment of $12,972.96, $55.44 for each of the 234 hours he worked overtime.

Along with the city ordinance detailing the mayor’s salary, the administrative order from 1974, Tatum’s time sheets and payroll documents, the Daily World also was given an administrative policy that said in accordance to FEMA and Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness disaster recovery procedures, the city of Opelousas was adopting a policy that would allow for salaried employees who worked more than 80 hours during the period to be paid overtime. Although the document bears the mayor’s signature, it is unclear when the policy went into affect as it is undated.

Tatum did not respond for a comment prior to publication.

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