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Council supports manager in wage dispute

By Staff | Dec 24, 2010

City Council cannot dictate the hiring or firing of any personnel, according to the city charter, but they did support City Manager Gary King’s effort to recover wages from 11 police officers who were paid for education credits they allegedly did not earn.
Mayor John Sullivan said he was “enticed” to discuss the issue publicly because the media wasn’t doing a good enough job communicating the complexities of the situation to the public.
Councilmember Bill Deile said the issue was a “bad PR move” for the police union, which has spoken publicly against making the officers pay back the money, adding that the officers in question have yet to provide any proof to show they were entitled to the money to be paid as they earned required college credits.
“If they had come forward with a valid college transcript to demonstrate they met that requirement, there wouldn’t be any issue,” Deile said. “The problem is they haven’t done that.”
Councilmember Kevin McGrail urged the public to remain patient while the process plays out, and not be quick to vilify the police officers in question.
“This process is going to take months, not days, and definitely not hours,” McGrail said. “These are good officers who have done a good job for our city for a number of years.”
Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz said the problem with the education credits is not new, instead being forged years ago and left to flounder when no one properly monitored the program.
“This goes back at least a decade,” Chulakes-Leetz said.
Councilmember Marty McClain agreed that too much wrong information was “getting out there”, but the matter was largely, if not completely, an administrative one.
“We are concerned with this yes, and we’ll keep monitoring this, but I believe the city manager and Chief (Jay) Murphy will take the appropriate actions when the time comes.”
The union has maintained the issue is one to be determined through collective bargaining and that the city cannot unilaterally require payback of funds the city paid.
It is not alleged that any of the officers actually claimed the credits for which the city paid them.
The credit plan, and its related pay component, is part of the officers’ pre-employment contracts.