SPRINGVILLE, Ala. — Millions of your tax dollars going to pay massive amounts of overtime for Alabama employees.
And a few state employees are raking it in.
In an exclusive I-Team report, we uncovered one corrections department worker making almost as much as the governor because of his overtime.
We're talking about a worker whose base salary is less than $40,000 a year.
That worker has scored a six-figure paycheck for years. He tops all state employees for overtime pay.
Steven Thompkins is a correctional officer at the St. Clair Correctional Facility in Springville, Alabama.
Check out the video of Thompkins’ Facebook page before he took it down during our investigation.
Take a close look at the comments on his page. People call him by the nickname “Big Money.” That includes Carl Sanders—now a retired captain who worked at the St. Clair prison. Sanders is the same person who signed one of Thompkins’ performance appraisals.
Our investigation started with a request to the state finance and personnel departments. I asked for the names of the Top 5 state employees who received the most overtime pay since 2014.
The result: Steven Thompkins’ name comes up over and over again. He received the most overtime pay every year for at least the past four years. And that’s despite the lowest base salary of everyone else on the list.
Base Pay: $38,426.60
Overtime Pay: $79,371.86
Total Pay: $117,798.46
Base Pay: $36,567.00
Overtime Pay: $75,662.50
Total Pay: $112,229.50
Base Pay: $34,808.30
Overtime Pay: $65,933.93
Total Pay: $100,742.23
Base Pay: $33,155.10
Overtime Pay: $63,111.47
Total Pay: $96,266.57
Records show Thompkins' base pay rose from about $33,000 in 2014 to more than $38,000 in 2017. His overtime pay increased, too.
Last year, Thompkins made almost as much as Alabama Governor Kay Ivy, who makes nearly $121,000 a year.
Thompkins averaged 90 to 95-hour work weeks
When you do the math during the last four years, Thompkins would have averaged 90 to 95-hour work weeks, not counting vacation time.
State Corrections Department regulations say employees may work a maximum of 80 hours a week.
State Auditor Jim Zeigler requested an investigation
We passed on our findings to State Auditor Jim Zeigler. He requested an investigation into Thompkins’ overtime in a letter to the Director of Investigations and Intelligence for the Alabama Department of Corrections.
“Using employees working 60, 80, 95 hours a week does create a public safety problem. They will not be as attentive. They will become sleepy, tired,” Zeigler said.
Before contacting Zeigler, we went to the Alabama Department of Corrections for answers. In an emailed statement, Public Information Manager Bob Horton said that Alabama prisons are "significantly understaffed and overcrowded." That results in a "high rate of overtime to manage."
For years, the Alabama Department of Corrections has topped the list for overtime compared to all other state departments. Nearly $31.6 million in overtime in 2017—compared to the second place Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, with $6.77 million in overtime.
"They need to quickly cut back on this overtime which is costing taxpayers one-and-a-half times the normal rate and replace them with full-time workers who will only work 40 hours and won’t go to sleep on the job," Zeigler said.
The corrections department says Thompkins works significant overtime providing security when inmates are transported to and from off-site medical facilities.
Thompkins fell asleep on the job in 2011
Our review of Thompkins’ personnel file shows that he was suspended for two days without pay in 2011 for falling asleep in an inmate’s room at Brookwood Hospital at 2:45 a.m.
We asked the Corrections Department for on-camera interviews with Commissioner Jeff Dunn, St. Clair Correctional Facility Warden Dewayne Estes and Thompkins. Our request was denied.
We reached out to Thompkins through his Facebook page. We asked to chat with him by phone. He declined. When we asked him if he wanted to answer questions about his overtime through Facebook Messenger, he didn’t respond. Then he took down his Facebook page.
The Alabama Department of Corrections is investigating
We caught up with Corrections Department Chief of Staff Steve Brown at a correctional officer graduation ceremony. He confirmed they’re investigating Thompkins. We asked him about Thompkins’ massive overtime.
“I believe the number of hours are being worked. Now, I’m not going to try to pretend that a guy working 95 hour weeks for more than a brief period of time is 100% effective. And that’s why it’s dangerous to go past even 80. I’d like to not do 80. I’d like to do something less than that,” Brown said.
Changes are being made
Since our ongoing probe, and Zeigler’s call for an investigation, Brown says changes are being made.
“We’re not going to change the policy for 80 hours, but we’re going to enforce the 80 hours. So, our payroll clerks are on notice that you cannot work past 80 hours without one of the commissioner’s authorities—and it has to be for a brief period of time,” Brown said.
Brown says the Corrections Department needs hundreds of correctional officers to reduce the overtime.
The new general fund budget that begins October 1st increases funding for prisons, ALEA and other departments.