XENIA — City council approved new contracts for officers, sergeants, captains and communication operators in the police division, but it didn’t happen without some dissension and accusations on Thursday.
The contracts for the officers were approved without incident. But the atmosphere in the council chambers became tense when the sergeants’ and captains’ new three-year contracts were discussed.
Councilman Dale Louderback asked why sergeants grossed an average of $96,000 and why the top-paid sergeants make more than two captains, the city’s finance director (Mark Bazelak) and Police Chief Randy Person. Louderback also brought up the captain’s pay, citing two who made more than $100,000 last year and a third who grossed slightly less than that figure.
While voicing his concern that they are paid too much, Louderback questioned why it appears they receive a 5 percent bonus in addition to the negotiated raise of 1.5 percent, adding up to a 6.5 percent yearly increase.
“Somehow we have a gross inequity,” he said. “I don’t think our negotiating team listened to council.”
Louderback asked City Manager Brent Merriman if it was in fact true that captains and sergeants received the additional 5 percent and cut him off when Merriman tried to explain that it’s performance-based and not an actual raise.
“Don’t give me the around the barn like the police chief,” Louderback said, referring to when he asked Person about the raises and was allegedly bamboozled.
“There’s an accusation of trying to dance around the barn,” Merriman said on Friday. “It would have been inaccurate for me to say they are getting a 6.5 percent pay increase.”
Person confirmed that there is a 5 percent bonus available but not yearly.
“It’s just a single raise in their overall pay,” Person said Friday. “It happens one time.”
And the increase is given when sergeants and captains meet professional development goals.
“(Louderback) could not get through his mind that a professional-plus rate (bonus) is a one-time issue,” Person said. “He’s got in his mind that that happens every year. (And) I resent the fact that Mr. Louderback said that I walked him around the barn.”
Person said he has always been truthful and forthcoming when questioned but also shouldered some of the blame.
“I think it’s more a lack of my ability to explain to him, not any plan of mine to create a falsehood,” Person said.
The chief acknowledged that with that 5 percent bonus the differential between ranks (more than 20 percent) is higher than in most areas. Person said the city management team decided that in negotiating future contracts they would try to lower that number to a more palatable 15-18 percent range.
In the new contract approved Thursday, officers and communications officers received a raise that will go from 2.5 percent, to 2.25 percent down to 2 percent. The sergeants and captains received 1.5 percent across the board but took a 1.875 percent cut in the fitness benefit (time allowed to exercise) starting in year two so in reality the increase is smaller.
“At the end of the day, the differential over three years will go from 21.25 percent to 18.6 percent,” Person said.
Merriman said there was a “general concurrence” that the gap is too large, but the city can’t just go in and make changes to the contracts.
“Once something is negotiated in a prior contract, it is there until both parties agree to remove it,” he said.
The vote for officers and communication officers was 7-0 while the vote for sergeants and captains was 5-2 with Louderback and Councilman John Caupp voting no.