Some K-9 Handlers Earned More Than the Vice President in 2017

Thanks to racking up overtime, some federal employees at the Federal Protective Service had salaries upwards of $200k in 2017. Are they legitimate?

A recent report from the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General found that, thanks to overtime  pay, three K-9 handlers at the Federal Protective Service (FPS) had annual gross salaries that exceeded that of the vice president of the United States.

The K-9 handlers were not alone in racking up the overtime pay. According to the report, among the employees analyzed in the IG investigation, 11 of the 19 FPS inspectors “frequently worked multiple 17- to 21-hour shifts with no days off in between, resulting in unusually high earnings for calendar year 2017.”

Just how much did all of this overtime add to their pay? The table from the report below illustrates:

FPS Inspector Pay and Overtime Hours for Calendar Year 2017

Number Overtime Hours Overtime Pay Regular and Other Paya Gross Pay
1 910.00 $52,028.96 $79,699.81 $131,728.77
2 (K-9)b 589.00 $42,202.38 $101,430.87 $143,633.25
3 808.00 $57,442.83 $99,185.83 $156,628.66
4 1,246.50 $73,942.48 $87,275.38 $161,217.86
5 (K-9) 1,002.00 $65,949.14 $96,025.39 $161,974.53
6 949.50 $64,956.19 $98,001.58 $162,957.77
7 1,190.50 $76,034.85 $94,628.51 $170,663.36
8 (K-9) 985.25 $69,716.36 $101,885.65 $171,602.01
9 (K-9) 938.50 $67,449.97 $107,487.70 $174,937.67
10 (K-9) 990.50 $72,184.73 $103,073.77 $175,258.50
11 1,269.00 $81,862.89 $99,226.43 $181,089.32
12 1,214.75 $78,150.81 $103,055.18 $181,205.99
13 1,228.50 $88,057.13 $105,143.21 $193,200.34
14 1,360.00 $94,638.27 $103,711.71 $198,349.98
15 (K-9) 1,327.50 $99,453.56 $116,075.37 $215,528.93
16 1,722.50 $119,948.84 $103,566.30 $223,515.14
17 (K-9) 1,763.00 $125,249.63 $115,672.58 $240,922.21
18 (K-9) 3,000.00 $209,069.14 $107,386.63 $316,455.77
19 (K-9) 3,202.50 $230,429.91 $112,904.84 $343,334.75
Total: $1,768,768.07 $3,704,204.81

Source: OIG analysis of FPS data

  1. Regular pay is standard, actual hours worked. Other pay includes compensation inspectors receive for achievement awards, annual leave, sick leave, holiday, and compensatory time, as well as additional pay for nights and Sundays that is premium pay and not considered FLSA overtime.
  2. b. K-9 handlers receive an hour each day in FLSA overtime to care for their dogs; up to 365 days per year. Thus, their FLSA overtime hours and FLSA overtime pay are higher.

For reference, Vice President Mike Pence’s annual salary in 2017 was $230,700. As can be seen in the above table, the overtime payments led the three federal employees listed towards the bottom to have gross salaries exceeding this figure.

The report stated:

Specifically, through overtime, 7 of the 19 inspectors earned more than some of the most senior executives in the Federal Government, and 4 earned a gross pay of double what they earned through regular and other pay alone. Such overtime use and earnings can be an indicator of time and attendance fraud, unless there is a reasonable justification for the work.

It also added, “[W]e question whether working these types of back-to-back shifts is sustainable as there is little rest time between shifts.”

The IG said that these massive amounts of overtime payments threaten the agency’s mission, which is to do things such as ensure building security and manage K-9 explosive detection teams. The report stated:

[T]he overtime use ultimately contributed to a projected budget shortfall for fiscal year 2018, potentially putting the FPS mission at risk. The inspectors were able to accumulate the extensive overtime because of poor internal controls, such as management not monitoring the use of overtime. Additionally, inspectors and supervisors did not follow NPPD [National Protection and Programs Directorate] and FPS guidance on submitting and approving overtime.

Repaying the Payments?

Could these employees have to repay these overtime payments? The IG report suggested it is a possibility. It stated:

Federal employees are required to repay the government if they receive salary payments in error, including overtime pay. However, employees may request that an agency waive the debt, which the agency may do if it determines collecting it “would be against equity and good conscience and not in the best interests of the United States.” Agencies may not waive the debt when there is any “indication of fraud, misrepresentation, fault, or lack of good faith on the part of the employee or any other person having an interest in obtaining a waiver of the claim.”

One of the IG’s recommendations was to “Initiate collection actions to recover $1,768,768 in unsupported costs representing overtime payments determined to be ineligible for payment.”

The IG report noted, “FPS began an investigative inquiry to determine whether there is any evidence that the high overtime hours of 19 FPS employees in 2017 were the result of fraud. NPPD will seek to collect unsupported costs if further investigation concludes that employees were improperly paid.”

The IG then said in its analysis of the agency’s response:

This recommendation is considered unresolved and open until NPPD can provide evidence and analysis that employees actually worked under the control or direction of the agency for the benefit of the agency during the time overtime was claimed for each of the 19 FPS inspectors. NPPD also needs to provide evidence of fraud if any overtime hours of 19 FPS inspectors resulted in fraud. Finally, NPPD must also provide records of successful collection of costs where inspectors were improperly paid or evidence of fraud was found.

FPS Has Not Managed Overtime Effectively

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.