Wilton attacks overtime expenditures in treasurer’s office

Rutland City Treasurer Wendy Wilton addressed supporters at the launch of her campaign for state treasurer. VTD Photo/Taylor Dobbs

Rutland City Treasurer Wendy Wilton addresses supporters at the launch of her campaign for state treasurer. VTD File Photo/Taylor Dobbs

Wendy Wilton, the candidate for state treasurer, is trying to find a soft spot in her opponent’s shell. The latest palpating exercise is alleged mismanagement of the office.

Wilton accuses Beth Pearce, the Democratic appointee to the treasurer’s post, of allowing one employee — the interim director of the state’s retirement program — to work more than 1,000 hours of overtime per year, for a three-year period.

The employee in question, Laurie Lanphear, worked in excess of 3,000 hours between 2010 and 2012. She earned $31,685 in overtime pay in 2012, on top of her annual salary of $58,281.

Wilton says the excessive amount of overtime is a sign of mismanagement.

“There is no doubt that overtime may be required occasionally to address specific issues such as seasonal spikes, emergencies or other unforeseen situations,” Wilton said in a statement. “But overtime as with all budget expenses must be managed and supervised in a responsible way. More than 1,000 overtime hours logged by one employee for three consecutive years is not adequate management.”

Lanphear, who is listed as a deputy director of Retirement Operations, is among the top five overtime earning state employees in 2012, right after Sgt. James Deeghan, the disgraced state policeman accused of fabricating timesheets and police tickets. Lanphear made about $27,777 in overtime in 2011 and $26,914.

Pearce’s campaign flatly denies the charge.

Overtime pay in the treasurer’s office has not led to budget overruns, Pearce says. Her office came under budget by $200,000 last year and $300,000 this year. Both years, the office has set aside $100,000 toward the emergency personnel survivor benefit fund. The total budget for treasurer’s office personnel is about $2 million a year.

Pearce says Lanphear’s overtime is the result of changes in personnel in the retirement division. She explains what happened by way of domino effect. Jeb Spaulding, who was elected state treasurer in 2010 was tapped by Gov. Peter Shumlin as secretary of administration.

Spaulding in turn brought Michael Clasen, the former director of retirement, with him to the Fifth Floor. Pearce, deputy treasurer, meanwhile, was appointed to state treasurer in Spaulding’s stead. Not long after, the state’s retirement policy specialist retired.

Two of the key retirement employees were not replaced. Instead, Pearce has been reshuffling positions, and Lanphear, a 15-year veteran of the office, has been asked to fill in where needed. As Pearce put it, “Laurie is doing the work of three people.”

Twelve employees work in the retirement division, according to Pearce. In addition to Lanphear, two retirement specialists also racked up between $7,200 and $9,800 in overtime last year. In all, Pearce oversees 35 workers in the state treasurer’s office.

Recently, Pearce decided to hire an assistant and to dole out the policy duties to the retirement specialists in the division.

It’s hard to find qualified retirement professionals, Pearce maintains, and so she said she plans to promote internally.

That means Lanphear’s overtime isn’t likely to fully abate any time soon. When asked whether she would put an end to overtime pay in the treasurer’s office, Pearce said: “We continue to manage office distribution and workload, and we continue to evaluate and allocate those resources as gear up the appropriate staff and training.”

Anne Galloway

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