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Cape to seek police wage paybacks

By Staff | Dec 8, 2010

From Breeze staff reports
The Cape Coral Police Department has notified 10 Cape officers of the department’s intent to seek repayment of wages for their failure to attain required educational credits.
A requirement of 60 credits is a provision for employment with the department and the officers received notice Wednesday afternoon, city officials said in a prepared statement.
One additional officer has yet to receive his letter as he is out of the state.
The amounts to be reimbursed range from a low of about $3,554 to a high of about $23,195. The total amount the city is seeking is approximately $95,509.
The officers have the option of having the funds deducted from their annual leave bank credits and/or paying the money out of their paychecks over the next 24 months.
The officers were identified after interim Police Chief Jay Murphy initiated a “complete review” of department personnel to confirm that all officers had met their educational obligations for employment, officials said.
The review came in the wake of an internal investigation earlier this year that revealed an officer had received nearly $4,000 in educational incentive pay for a college degree he did not have.
The education requirement is mandatory for officers to move up in “step” levels and receive the higher pay provided at each level.
“City management, with the aid of the City’s labor attorneys, has been attempting to address these breaches in the officers’ pre-employment agreements for several weeks with the union and have been unsuccessful,” Murphy said in the statement. “We need to move forward and resolve this matter, and these notices spell out the terms of settlement for each of the officers.”
The 11 officers must repay the city for the additional dollars they received as a result of moving to higher pay levels for required educational credits they did not obtain, officials said. The officers also will be returned to what the city has determined to be their appropriate “step” and will have their pay reduced by 10 percent.
Each officer also will be required to obtain the necessary 60 credits — 15 credits per year over 48 months– beginning in January.
In addition to identifying 11 officers who did not attain the required educational credits, the review also found that one Cape Coral police officer had met the educational requirements but had not received the appropriate salary step increases.
Officer Kelvin Thompkins will receive the necessary step adjustment in pay, and the city will make arrangements to provide the retroactive pay amount due to Thompkins, officials said.
In light of the “systemic problems” that were identified in the review, Murphy, with the concurrence of the City’s Human Resources Department, changed the minimum qualifications by requiring all newly hired officers to have 60 credit hours before any offer of employment, officials said, adding this change will eliminate the need for future pre-employment educational agreements.
Union officials could not be reached immediately for comment Wednesday evening.

Editor’s Note: The city of Cape Coral has said an inaccurate statement was included in Wednesday’s release about the 11 officers and the educational pay. The city has asked that the statement that the 11 officers must repay the City for the additional dollars they received as a result of moving to higher pay levels “by claiming to have the required educational credits” be withdrawn. The Breeze has deleted that inaccurate comment in the story above.