Hillbrook Juvenile Detention Center on Velasko Road has 32 beds for youths accused of crimes. Credit: Julie McMahon

A Hillbrook Juvenile Detention Center supervisor who worked exorbitant overtime has retired and returned as a part-time employee, according to Onondaga County Comptroller Marty Masterpole.

Sandy Masello retired July 8, about a week after Central Current published an article about an audit that found the facility mismanaged overtime. Masello returned on July 16 part-time, Masterpole said.

Masterpole wrote in his audit earlier this year that Masello broke state labor laws 82 times over the last three years.

The supervisor had one of the highest county salaries in 2020 and 2021. She made more than $190,500 in 2020 and $184,200 in 2021. Her base salary in both years was just shy of $70,000.

Masello was on pace to make nearly $190,000 in 2022 and have the fourth-highest pension in the county if she had kept working full-time. Masello’s pension hasn’t yet been finalized, the state comptroller’s office said.

Masterpole said he was unsure what her retirement would mean for overtime at Hillbrook.

“Will there be another employee that ends up making the astronomical amount of overtime she was making?” Masterpole said. “Time will tell.”

Masterpole’s audit found Masello took advantage of an overtime system with weak oversight, part of a larger issue at Hillbrook. Overtime at Hillbrook had steadily increased since 2017.

Masello’s role as a supervisor at the juvenile detention facility allowed her to self-assign overtime.

The state labor law requires employees to take at least one 24-hour break every seven days. Masello failed to take a break in 82 of 130 weeks covered by the audit, Masterpole said.

A 2016 audit by the previous comptroller also found many of the same issues, including:

  • Employees calling in sick and working anyway to collect compensatory time or overtime.
  • A lack of verification that overtime is being handed out on a rotation.
  • Shift supervisors approving their own overtime or failing to get their overtime pre-approved.
  • Employees working more than two 16-hour shifts in one work week.

Masterpole found that Masello engaged in each of these practices.

Masello has not returned a call left at her listed number, a message left at Hillbrook or an email to her county email.

Justin Sayles, a spokesman for County Executive Ryan McMahon, said that the Masello made her overtime “due to a negotiated and ratified contract, not an arbitrary policy from Onondaga County.”

The office said they are running a report on overtime spending at Hillbrook but have not yet received the result. Sayles said he could not comment on increasing overtime at the facility at this time.

He said employees are not required to disclose reasons for retiring.

In a formal response to the audit, county attorneys disputed some of Masterpole’s findings. Officials said Hillbrook needed the overtime to staff the facility and that counselors didn’t break any laws. They characterized some issues as misunderstandings, agreed to make some changes and said they’d re-evaluate their staffing structure.

“Any perceived or real shortcomings of the department in its management of overtime should not reflect negatively on a dedicated employee who has ‘stepped up’ when needed,” Hillbrook management wrote.

Masello’s earning ability as a part-time employee will be capped by New York State. Public employees who collect a pension and return to public sector work in New York cannot earn more than $35,000.

Staffing at Hillbrook has increased since New York passed Raise the Age legislation in 2016. Overtime has also risen since the law passed despite the county hiring another 26 full-time employees.

Earlier this year, Onondaga County Legislator and Republican Majority Leader Brian May said the county should better negotiate its union contract with CSEA.

The contract expires Dec. 31.

Masterpole, a Democrat, said he believes renegotiating the contract would help eliminate some of the issues that juice overtime.

“That would be the biggest victory in my opinion,” Masterpole said.

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Chris Libonati covers government, accountability and equity. Have a tip? Contact Chris at 585-290-0718 or libonati@centralcurrent.org.