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Longboat Key Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2010 8 years ago

Police union raises wage issue

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

The Longboat Key Police Department wants the same thing the firefighters want as part of a new three-year contract — more money.

And the town’s labor attorney, Reynolds Allen, of Allen, Norton & Blue, told the police officers at a Feb. 16 meeting the same thing he has told the firefighters.

“I have told you, just like I have told the firefighters, that we are not spending any money at all,” Allen said. “We are not going to make any adjustments in wages for the first year of a contract.”

Allen, however, told the police officers the town is open to considering wage and cost-of-living increases in years two and three of the contract.

But there’s no guarantee the money will be in the budget for them, Allen said.

Longboat Key Marine Patrol Officer Dennis Silverio Jr. told the town that he doesn’t think the police officers are asing for too much.

“All we would like to request is that the town to keep our pension plan and medical plan at the status quo and have the town implement our step plans (wage increases) back into place,” Silverio said.

Silverio was frustrated with Allen’s stance and asked him how the town couldn’t afford approximately $7,000 in wage increases for a police department that has decreased its number of officers and increased its workload.

Said Allen: “It’s not that the town doesn’t have any money. It’s just not getting certain fees that it has in the past due to the economy, and next year’s forecast is expected to be worse.”

Police Benevolent Association attorney Diane Bailey Morton scoffed at Allen’s remarks.

“You’re saying $7,000 will devastate this town?” she asked.

Allen said that it wouldn’t, but that the town was not willing to give raises to its officers when other employees at Town Hall were not getting wage increases.

“Do any of those other employees hold firearms?” Morton asked. “I think the citizens would want their best trained officers to have an incentive to stay here. We are disappointed.”

Allen, however, responded by saying the town was not willing to offer raises at a time when the police officer pension percentage of payroll has gone from 28.6% to 35% and taxable values continue to decline by 10% annually.

Although Morton said a page in the town’s annual budget showed some town employees received a raise last year, Finance Director Tom Kelley said that wasn’t the case.

Money was transferred between the Public Works Department and the street fund to help save costs, Kelley said, but no wage increases occurred.

Morton, who is the police union’s third attorney since negotiations began last year, said she would review the information provided to her before the union scheduled another negotiation meeting.


Labor attorney costs

During the course of the Feb. 16 police union negotiation meeting, Police Benevolent Association attorney Diane Bailey Morton insinuated that the town would have the approximately $7,000 needed to give the police officers wage increases in the next year if it wasn’t paying for the services of town-hired labor attorney Reynolds Allen.

According to the town’s finance department, Allen has billed the town $14,760 from May 2009 through November 2009 for his services when working with the firefighters on a new contract.

And Allen has billed the town $8,225 from May 2009 through November 2009 for his services when working with the police officers on a new contract.

Allen charges the town $200 per hour for his services.

Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].


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