Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Salary Band Proposed for Police Director

Random image: Ice-melt patterns on steps of City Hall.

The announcement of a "salary band" for police director Monday reflects restoration of a rule that the person in charge of the Police Division must receive 5 percent more than the next-in-command.

That had been the guideline when the city had a police chief, although because raises for the non-union employees took on a random pattern since 2006, former Police Chief Edward Santiago was not making more than his captains. In fact, when his title was abolished and he took the option of staying on as captain, his pay actually increased.

The proposed salary band for the civilian police director will be set at $97,163 to $131,310, if the council approves the salary ordinance on two readings.

Considering that the administration remembered to establish the posts of confidential aide and public information officer by salary ordinances, it is a bit curious that the action was never taken for the title of police director. Martin Hellwig, director of Public Affairs & Safety, was additionally named police director in April 2008 and drew only one salary for both jobs.

Hellwig was sworn in on Jan. 1 again to both posts, to serve concurrently with the mayor's four-year term ending Dec. 31, 2013.

The re-election of Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs means nobody has to sort out the salary jumble of the cabinet. In the past, all three department heads received the same compensation, as did the police and fire chiefs. With the drift of compensation since 2006, about a year ago the fire chief was making more than the city administrator and the department heads' salaries were no longer aligned. Had a new mayor been elected, that person would have faced putting together a cabinet at salaries lower than those of subordinates.

The fire chief's salary in February 2009 was $113,480, as per an Open Public Records Act request to Personnel Director Karen Dabney. It is ironic in a way that raises were apparently granted for that title, because several years ago the city took action to bring the police and fire chiefs' salaries in alignment. The state police union mandated the 5 percent differential for the police chief, but there was no such rule for fire chiefs. A former fire chief was making much less than his deputies. Whether the administration deliberately held back on the police chief's raises or whether it was an oversight, the imbalance recurred, now to the benefit of the fire chief.

The dozen or so non-represented officials used to receive salary increases by ordinance, but the last time that happened to this writer's recollection was before Peter Sepelya retired as chief finance officer. He and City Clerk Laddie Wyatt received raises in March 2006 retroactive to 2003. Since Sepelya left at the end of 2007, there has been no permanent CFO. Wyatt's salary has continued to increase, from $101,498 in 2006 to $112,805 in February 2009, 3 percent more than the city administrator.

Even if top officials agree to take less pay for whatever reason, 2010 seems like a good time to do a comprehensive review of salary bands for the non-union titles and to restore parity. Future candidates need to know what they are getting into and may not be willing to take pot luck in their paycheck.

--Bernice Paglia


Blogger Maria Pellum, Plainfield Resident said...


For a moment I thought the picture was a new knitting project of yours, but after reading the entire post I see that this is another "knitting project" by our administration! Viva la Alcadesa? Hmmm!


10:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Restore Parity?

Cries by the PBA Union is what started the non-parity between unions.

Going back in time, the only unions existing were the PBA, FMBA, Teamsters and PMMA. Unions began to hold out until the PBA settled their contracts since they were the strongest bargaining unit. Once the PBA settled, the other unions settled for the same Cost of Living increase the PBA received. The PBA fought the parity issue and won their case so the other unions had to negotitate harder only to sit back and watch the PBA receive a higher COLA each year.

Then the City embarked on a crusade to separate the membership of the PBA, FMBA and PMMA and caused the formation of the Superior Officers of the Fire and Police Unions and the PMMA was recognized as the bargaining union for the Division Heads of the City.

So instead of having one salary guide for all city employess, there is now a salary guide for each union as well as salary ordinances for Department Heads and other non-union employees.

What a tangled web we weave!

11:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This kind of thing has happened everywhere, not just in Plainfield. One real problem was, and is, the law giving police and firefighters binding arbitration when impasse is reached in contract negotiations. This has created problems for a great many municipalities as well as disparities in salary increases between police/firefighters and other unions. The separation mentioned took place a long time ago.

7:51 PM  
Blogger Bernice said...

Thanks for the insight on how things came about. The trick now is to re-set terms based on the world as it now exists. Comments?

8:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, it began a long time ago - 1982 beginning with the Lattimore administration to be exact.

It will be impossible to reset terms. How can you ask unions for cutbacks and furloughs when you have two full time administrative aides for a part time Mayor when one qualified administrative staff, perhaps with assistance from a part time staffer, could provide services for both the City Administrator and Mayor's Office.

How can you ask for givebacks when the governing body finds a need for reimbursement for every little expense and require a cell phone. Any expenses by council should be paid out of pocket from their salary received.

How can you ask for givebacks when the city provides health benefits to part time employees.

How can you ask for givebacks when city officials are provided with a vehicle and gas for personal use when not actually performing an official duty.

How can you ask for givebacks when every time there is a change at a departmental level, the city has to go out and refurnish an office and purchase a new computer.

Before any union can even begin to take negotiations seriously, the City has to get it's sorry act togeather.

8:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You need to go back to Kennedy Shaw when each job was given a title and grade and ALL the grades recieved the same amount of $.. A police officer was a grade 15, fireman 14, laborer 8 etc. So in one swope council would approve increases in the grades and each person would get the same increase.

2:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To 2:32

Correct and within each grade there 10 steps and eployees would advace one step each year in addition to any cost of living increase. And longevity was also provided for years of service

7:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How is it that the PMUA executives make well over $115k per year with the top guy making $150k? Should the garbage guy be paid 20k more than the police and fire heads? Plainfield needs to get its priorities straight

2:13 PM  
Blogger Bernice said...

Municipal budgets are primarily bound by the amount of taxes that can be raised. Authorities can set rates to cover their budgets.

2:39 PM  

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