No state employee works longer hours than Abu Kamara.
In the past five years, the 59-year-old “security counselor” at the Minnesota State Security Hospital in St. Peter has worked an average of nearly 74 hours a week, year-round. No other state employee comes close.
The state of Minnesota generally runs a tight ship, with just about 2 percent of its payroll going to overtime. But certain individuals enjoy big paydays, including 121 employees who collected more the $100,000 in overtime from fiscal years 2010 to 2014, according to a Star Tribune analysis.
Kamara made $301,557 in overtime over five years, which amounts to about 54 percent of his $553,315 in total wages.
The overtime will roll into his retirement payments.
Kamara said his future pension earnings played a minor role in his accepting so many overtime assignments.
“Some things are bigger than yourself,” Kamara said. “My main driving force is … I am providing for my family.”
A native of Sierra Leone, Kamara has used his earnings to support 27 nieces and nephews, whose fathers were killed by rebels in the West African country, as well as seven of his own children — ages 9 to 33 — in the United States.
Kamara came to the United States more than 40 years ago to get a degree in international relations at Minnesota State University, Mankato. He hoped to work at the United Nations. But he accepted a job as a guard at the security hospital, where he has remained for 33 years.
The hospital, which houses the Minnesota Sex Offender Program, is a hard place to work. Employees frequently quit, Kamara said, so overtime shifts are often offered.
“I am the most senior person in the state in my classification, so when there is overtime I get first dibs on it,” Kamara said. “But there is so much of it, it is ridiculous. Today is my day off. I am doing two shifts.”
Kamara hopes to retire next year. He plans to return to Sierra Leone to launch farming initiatives to help others.