HISD fixes overtime issues after ABC13 report

July 16, 2010 3:02:02 AM PDT
Some Houston schools may have been blackmailed. A new audit claims some maintenance workers demanded they be paid overtime if they were going to do the job. That's just one of the bombshells from an audit that came out just weeks after 13 Undercover exposed just how much some custodians were making. And wait till you see how HISD is cleaning up.

It was the school's superintendent who requested the audit, knowing it would not be pretty. Could this be a way of government cleaning up? We got out the 13 Undercover mop and headed to the classroom, looking to do a little cleaning up.

They don't call it a waste can for nothing.

"Wayne, we want to give credit where credit is due," HISD's General Manager of Facilities Issa Dadoush told us.

HISD custodians were cleaning up all right -- $3.2 million in overtime just for them in 10 months.

Plant operators like Vernon Washington at Sharpstown High School were nearly doubling their salary, making a lot more than teachers did.

We exposed it all in May. What a difference two months makes.

"Overtime has dropped by more than 70 percent," Dadoush said. "That's a reduction for almost $470,000 every month."

And it was a lot worse than even we knew. Here's the exclusive proof.

"The audit shed more light on the problems we have," Dadoush said.

You know there's a problem when HISD maintenance managers couldn't explain how $3 million in maintenance overtime money had even been spent.

According to the audit, schools did remodeling on their own, risking "health" and "safety issues," "building codes" and "structural damage."

And if you ever wondered why some schools got fixed quicker than others, well, now we know: "Priorities are changed if a school capitalizes on political connections," the audit stated.

Oh, and money talked.

"Any member or employees that goes to our clients and demands overtime for work to be performed, it's an automatic termination," Dadoush said.

And HISD maintenance officials complained they inherited "incomplete and defective bond program construction projects," according to the audit.

"We had incidents that took place, as you described, and that is not acceptable," Dadoush said. "That's not the way we should do business."

Remember we told you part of the custodial overtime could be blamed on the simple fact that every school day, 12 to 14 percent of custodians don't bother to show up for work?

We suggested a pool of substitutes, kind of like what teachers have.

"By August 2, the district will have a custodial pool of about 116 FTEs -- full-time employees," Dadoush said.

And get this, since the overtime gravy train has ended, guess what's happened?

"As we are shutting down overtime, our operations during normal hours, the productivity increased," Dadoush said.

The custodian union has a warning, though. All this belt-tightening, it says, could mean that schools won't be quite as clean come fall.


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