Every Union police officer will get an equal raise when Prop P funds are distributed.
Union aldermen approved a uniform raise at a special meeting Monday night. The vote reverses a previous decision on how to implement the raises that was proposed by Chief Norm Brune.
Under the plan approved Monday night, every officer will get a $4.18 per hour raise.
The raise comes from funding generated by a half-cent sales tax approved by voters in April 2018. The tax, known as Prop P, called for funds to increase compensation for officers.
Based on 2017 sales tax figures, the city of Union was told to expect an additional $342,300 in revenue for police wages. For months Brune, City Administrator Russell Rost and Finance Director Heather Keith worked on a plan to distribute the funds.
Brune had proposed a different pay structure that would have resulted in patrolmen getting a $3.40 hourly raise. Other officers would have received different raises under a restructuring of sorts.
Brune said one of the goals of Prop P was to improve the retention of officers. He said one way to do that would be to increase the wages for sergeants.
The idea would increase the separation between patrolmen and sergeants and hopefully make the sergeant position more appealing and lead to more experienced officers sticking around.
Another proposal was to transition Capt. Kyle Kitcher away from an hourly position and into a salaried role. Rost said he couldn’t find another department where the second in command was an hourly officer.
Under the proposal, Kitcher’s base wages would have increased from $65,000 to $85,000. Rost said while it may look like a big jump, it really wasn’t.
With overtime, Kitcher’s actual gross pay was closer to $80,000, Rost said. By making him salaried, he’d no longer get overtime so his total compensation would only increase by about $5,000.
Brune’s plan was presented to the board in an executive session Dec. 10. It was supported by the aldermen at the time.
The plan was revealed to officers shortly after the board meeting. Officers began expressing concerns about the decision making process the same week.
Two members of Brune’s command staff, Lt. Andrew Parker and Detective Sgt. John Biser, reported conversations with other officers complaining about how the funds were distributed. The reports were included in the packet given to Union aldermen prior to Monday’s meeting.
Parker said he was contacted Dec. 12 by Sgt. Jeremy Meyer regarding Prop P. Parker reported Meyer said a number of officers were “not happy” about some of the raises and promotions being proposed.
Meyer said he and others were “afraid” to bring up the issue with the chief. Meyer also told Parker some officers were talking about quitting and looking for another job.
Parker said he encouraged Meyer, and anyone with concerns, to speak with Brune.
At Monday’s meeting, Brune reported having multiple conversations with officers in recent weeks.
Biser’s letter dealt with an encounter with Officer Tommie Lowe, who is stationed at East Central College. Biser wrote that he heard Lowe questioning some of the Prop P decisions and contacted him Dec. 17.
Biser said Lowe told him he was “bothered” by how the money was distributed. Biser’s letter indicated Lowe “knew from the inception of Prop P the city was going to cheat the officers.”
Lowe told Biser the money should have been distributed evenly to officers. Lowe told Biser the actions regarded the Prop P funds were “nefarious,” “illegal,” and “political.”
Speaking to the board, Lowe apologized for his word choices. He said he did not use the word know the meaning of word nefarious and use it inappropriately.
Following those conversations, Rost said he felt it was only fair to give the officers a chance to voice their concerns. The only way to do that was in an open meeting.
Before any officer could speak, Alderman Karen Erwin proposed ditching Brune’s plan in favor of a uniform raise. She said the general rule is to listen to the department heads, which is why she backed Brune’s plan originally.
However, after hearing the officers’ issues in phone calls and other conversations, she said she was changing her mind and supporting distributing the Prop P funds evenly among the officers.
After Brune outlined his plan, three officers said why they favored the even distribution. Officer Kevin Williams said the officers were happy with the raise proposed by Brune, but it wasn’t what was expected.
Williams said he always thought the intention of Prop P was to raise salaries across the board and not give one officer more than another.
Sgts. Anthony Cardoza and Jeremy Meyer both said they would be happy to take a lower raise if it meant other officers got more.
After more than an hour of discussions, Erwin again pushed for a uniform raise.
Rost pointed out that could mean high-ranking officers like Kitcher actually stood to make more money than what was proposed under the chief’s plan because he could still make overtime pay on top of his new, higher wages.
The board supported the uniform distribution and approved every officer getting a $4.18 hourly raise. Officers that were slated for promotion would still get a promotion, but not at the wage Brune originally proposed.