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Legislative overtime adds up: Staffer tops Governor in salary

As Chief Clerk of the Nevada Assembly, Susan Furlong earned more than the Governor in 2015. That's according to Transparent Nevada, a non-profit organization which tracks the salaries of our public employees.

Furlong's base salary that year was $99,000. But she also earned another $65,000 in overtime and $3,000 in "other pay." That put her total salary at $167,000.

Gov. Brian Sandoval, by comparison, earned $154,000.

Furlong's counterpart in the Senate, Secretary Claire Clift, earned roughly the same base salary as Furlong. Records show Clift's overtime added up to $13,000.

That's still a significant amount, but it's the $65,000 that Susan Furlong collected in overtime pay that seems to raise the most questions in a state where the legislature only meets for four months every other year.

"This is a 65 percent boost to her salary," said Robert Fellner with Transparent Nevada. "That's the most overtime I've ever heard of at the legislature."

Furlong and Clift perform many duties, including publishing the Daily Journal. It's the official record of what happens in the legislature.

They are critical jobs that often call for late hours when the legislature is in session. But is the overtime for these positions being scrutinized as closely as it should be?

We contacted half a dozen state lawmakers who refused to speak on the record about this. Some called the issue "too sensitive" because Furlong and Clift serve as their support staff.

Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, a Democrat from Las Vegas, did agree to go on camera for this story. He did so reluctantly, saying there's no need to clamp down on staff overtime right now, at least in his view. And he said that even after we showed him the numbers.

"I was not here last session, if you're talking about last session's numbers," he said. "We review our budget every session. If there's something that appears to be an abuse, I think we would reserve the opportunity to take a look at it," Frierson said.

The question is how much is too much when it comes to overtime.

"There are situations where it's needed and situations where it may not be. Those are the type of discussions lawmakers should be welcoming," said Fellner with Transparent Nevada.

"That's kind of a bigger issue than just the dollar amount," he added.

Everyone we spoke with for this story praised the work of both Furlong and Clift when it comes to the way they do their jobs. That includes hiring staff, documenting what happens in the legislature and providing support for lawmakers.

But at what point does the cost of what they do need to be reeled in?

When it comes to someone earning $65,000 in overtime, that seems to be the $64,000 question.

Susan Furlong did not return our calls for this story. It's important to note this is not just a one time occurrence. Between 2010 and 2015, Furlong earned more than a quarter of a million dollars just in overtime pay.

As always, if you have something you would like us to investigate, give Joe a call or send him an email at jhart@mynews4.com and he'll look into it.

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