SF firefighters climb to top of City payroll

Thanks to copious amounts of overtime, San Francisco Fire Department employees and officials climbed their ladders straight to the top of The City’s list of highest paid officials for 2013.

Out of the top 100 highest-paid city workers, members of the SFFD accounted for an overwhelming majority, taking 62 out of 100 spots.

Fire Department Battalion Chief Samson Lai had the honors of sitting atop the list, making a total of $347,102 in 2013. Lai earned $131,000 of that total through overtime and another $29,000 being earned by premium pay and incentives.

Lai’s  overtime put him ahead of two of The City’s top-ranking officials, Police Chief Greg Suhr, and his own boss, Fire Chief Joanne Hayes White. White brings in $336,922 annually, and Suhr tops that with a $339,282 annual salary.

Though it may seem like Lai — who currently oversees 50 firefighters operating out of station No. 2 at Powell and Broadway — is making a gratuitous salary, he told the SFGate he worked hard to earn every penny:

“I’m probably in the busiest battalion west of the Mississippi.”

The Fire Department currently has an overtime cap of 620 hours, but a loophole in the ruling allows firefighters to voluntarily exceed the limit as long as it prevents others from having to work mandatory overtime.

President of the firefighters union Tom O’Connor told SFGate that the cities freeze on hiring new personnel isn’t saving them any money, it’s actually costing them:

“This is the ugly side of a hiring freeze. You are paying someone else at time and a half to get the job done.”

Because of this, the Fire Department’s overtime spending soared to $43.8 million dollars last fiscal year, an increase of $9.9 million dollars from just a decade ago. A City auditor attributed this steep rise in overtime pay as the department’s answer to being short 257 firefighters.

Maybe it’s time for Mayor Ed Lee, who is the bottom-feeder of the fiscal earners of this article with his $285,466 annual salary, to look into this overtime matter.