(BIVN) – Overtime pay for Hawaiʻi County administration department heads during times of disaster response is getting little support.
On November 27, the Hawaiʻi County Salary Commission talked about possible adjustments to executive salaries for extraordinary demands during times like the recent volcanic eruption. The commissioners – and the county’s head of human resources – agreed it was not a good idea.
“Certain appointed officials, especially in this unique situation where we have multiple disasters going on, were spending almost continuous hours up in the Civil Defense headquarters, doing disaster response and management and control, and as appointed officials under the Salary Commission they do not get any additional compensation for that,” commented Hugh Ono, the chair of the Salary Commission.
“Historically, municipalities do not pay department heads and deputies overtime,” said William Brilhante, the director of the county’s Department of Human Resources and ex officio member of the commission. “When you accept an appointment to that position, the understanding is that you’re there … on a 24-hour basis. You’re not just there 7:45 to 4:30.”
“I think this is a slippery slope,” Brilhante said, adding that one of the duties the Salary Commission is tasked with, “is setting the salary for the mayor, and I think it’s just unconscionable that now we’re gonna say ‘okay, there’s a disaster so now we’re gonna pay the mayor time and a half overtime’, you know.”
Brilhante said the discussion “follows the eruption event that we recently had. That’s a very unique situation. That’s not something that – you know – happens often. Hopefully not. But… I think if we we changed the rules to accommodate for that… are we just gonna say, ‘okay, extraordinary demands due to a disaster’… is that only for lava disasters? Where do we draw the line?”
Committee member Tom Fratinardo was concerned about the overtime middle-managers might be getting during such situations, and what happens if it “got to the point where it caused an inversion to one of the department heads?”
“Oftentimes we do see inversion,” Brilhante said. “There’s no strict law, there’s no strict regulation, that there can’t be inversion.”
Chair Ono, who agreed that a department head accepts the position knowing that it is a full time job, recalled his time in the Civil Defense headquarters with fondness. “It’s fun working in civil defense because it’s really freelance. I really enjoyed going up there because you have a team of people working very collaboratively, helping each other out,” he said.
“You almost have a different employee come out of them, I mean these are people that are usually doing maintenance work out there and you know – are accused of standing around, too many people standing around watching one person working – but there’s a different person that comes out during an emergency, so it is a lot of fun,” Ono said. “And they feed you good, too.”