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Overtime Bills Inflated Perry Security Costs

Overtime pay for the officers who protect Rick Perry skyrocketed while the governor and his family were out on the presidential campaign trail, new records indicate.

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Overtime pay for the officers who protect Gov. Rick Perry skyrocketed while he and his family were on the presidential campaign trail, new records indicate.

The overtime pay details, obtained by The Texas Tribune under the Texas Public Information Act, have increased the security costs well beyond the amounts released so far by the Texas Department of Public Safety. The agency has been releasing travel-related security costs as the bills come in and get filed for reimbursement, but those disclosures don't include the amount of overtime paid out, DPS spokesman Tom Vinger said.

In the six months in which Perry was an active presidential candidate, DPS spent $1.1 million on overtime pay for the Executive Protection Bureau — more than the total overtime pay for the security detail in all of 2010, records show.

Overtime spending for December, when Perry went on a meandering bus tour of Iowa, reached almost $300,000, the documents indicate. The department spent $75,000 a month on average in 2010 and $119,000 a month in 2011.

The average from August 2011 to January 2012, when Perry was still in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, was about $185,000. Perry dropped out of the presidential contest on Jan. 19, two days before the South Carolina primary.

DPS could not immediately say why the overtime bill for September 2011 was only $303.74, or if some of the overtime expenses in that month were accounted for in another period.

Either way, the total cost of providing security for Perry and his family over the last few months won’t be known for a while because all the bills haven’t been tallied. The Texas Legislature requires the agency to release quarterly totals reflecting the amounts submitted on travel vouchers.

As the figures are updated, the costs rise.

Late last year, for example, the agency had added up nearly $400,000 for travel-related security costs in September. In a more recent update, DPS disclosed that it had spent more than $500,000 that month, for airplane tickets, lodging, fuel, meals and “other” expenses.

The overtime costs are already providing more fodder for Perry’s critics. They say that in such tight budgetary times, the governor shouldn’t be asking the state to pay the security tab for a purely political endeavor.

“What a waste of money,” said Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, leader of the Texas House Democrats. “Why can’t his private donors pay for it?”

Perry and his aides have said repeatedly that DPS is charged with protecting him and his family and has dismissed calls to reimburse the state for the expenses.

“Governor Perry is governor no matter where he goes, and DPS has a policy of providing security for governors and their families everywhere they travel — as they have back several administrations — just as many other states do, and as the federal government does for the president through the Secret Service,” Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed said.

“DPS determines the policies on how to provide protection for statewide elected officials who are eligible for security protection. It’s unfortunate we live in a day and age when security is an issue, and Governor Perry and his family greatly respect and appreciate the officers who provide security for the first family and other state officials, just as they have done for decades.”

Perry is not the only Texas governor to run up big bills — and receive criticism — for security provided on out-of-state trips. When former Gov. George W. Bush ran for president in 2000, the state spent at least $400,000 a month in the first quarter of that year — more than four times the amount spent in all of 1999, the public safety department revealed at the time.

All told, taxpayers were on the hook for $3.9 million in security costs for Bush and his family from January 1999 to March 2000, when the Secret Service took over the job, DPS said.

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