Being a police officer is often times a thankless job. Long hours, difficult chores, and mediocre pay are just a few of the reasons police departments are ‘always hiring.’ We all value our officers and have the utmost respect for them knowing without them, our cities would be a mess. So, it certainly wouldn’t make sense that at least 10 Statesboro police officers may not have been adequately paid over the last few years and it would make even less sense if the City knew about it, didn’t rectify the problem, and has never answered “why.”
Most local governments use a pay step/grade scale to determine employee and elected official pay by assigning employees a number to determine how much they are paid on a scale of 1-30. When hired, slick sleeve officers are placed at the pay step of 14. In 2009, a promotion to Advanced Patrol Officer (APO) at a pay grade of 15 was available after 18 months of probation. (The requirements have since change, but the pay step from 14 to 15 remains the same.) The main perk of moving up a pay step is a pay increase – in this case, a 2.5% raise. The policy of pay steps is city-wide, not just in the public safety department.
Several new officers were hired between 2009 and 2014. After their probationary period, they were promoted to APO, but were not awarded their 2.5% pay increase. Open records requests indicate that the lack of pay increase was brought to the attention of the City officials, included but not limited to, the city manager and Human Relations department, several times over the last six years. Correspondence blames the ‘city-wide pay freeze’ for the absence of the 2.5% pay increase.
A few missing pieces
Pinpointing the person responsible for authorizing the missing promotion pay is no easy feat. All fingers lead to nowhere while each department passes the puck.
There’s just one problem: A pay freeze does not apply to a pay step scale. If someone is promoted, their pay increase is not affected by a pay freeze. This notion was confirmed to AllOnGeorgia by the City Clerk in the presence of the City Assistant Records Officer. The City Clerk said that while there have been very few pay raises over the last decade, several employees in the city have been promoted and received a pay increase because of the pay step change. She emphasized that a promotion pay is not the same as a pay freeze.
If this is the case, why did it not apply to officers promoted to Advanced Patrol Officer?
Even the alternative excuse doesn’t make sense
The Human Relations department says APO’s didn’t see their 2.5% increase for nearly five years because of the pay freeze, but a pay freeze must go before the council for a vote, per the charter.
Section 3-302. Rules of procedure:
“The council, at any regular or special meeting called for that purpose, by a majority vote of all members, may adopt rules of procedure and have the power to punish its members for disorderly behavior and misconduct by censure of fine, may adopt an order of business or amendments thereto that are consistent with the Charter, without the need for approval by the mayor.”
Section 3-304. Approval by the mayor:
“Every ordinance and resolution adopted by council and every other council action requiring the signature of the mayor, or in his absence, the mayor pro tem shall, before it takes effect, be presented and certified by the city clerk, and presented to the mayor with two (2) days of its adoption. The mayor, within ten (10) calendar days of the adoption by council, shall sign and return the document to be signed to the city clerk or a person designated by mayor and city council, for recording purposes.”
A quick perusal of city council meeting minutes does not indicate such a vote or action. A glance at the responsibilities of the city manager illustrates that if the city manager arbitrarily made that decision, he was outside the scope of his responsibilities, and that decision was not proper.
Section 5-102. Duties and Responsibilities [of the city manager]”
“The city manager shall have the following powers, duties and responsibilities:
(a) Serves as the head of the department of administration;
(b) Advise and assist the mayor and city council in the performance of designated duties;
(c) Coordinate and supervise the activities of the various city departments;
(d) Serve as a point of contact for communications between mayor and city council and the departments of city government;
(e) Carry out written directos of mayor and city council;
(f) Produce periodical financial and status reports and associated recommendations to mayor and city council concerning the affairs of the City; and
(g) Perform other such duties as required by mayor and city council.
Whether it was the council that made the decision without a vote or the city manager without the direction of the Council, the question is whether it was done lawfully and by way of the City Charter.
So which is it?
Did the City violate the charter by bypassing a vote before council to change budgetary items mid-year and arbitrarily change departmental pay?
Or did the City simply stop paying Advanced Patrol Officers according to the pay scale ordinance the rest of the city was operating under?
It’s been brought to the attention of the City
Open records requests indicate that the issue has been brought to the attention of the HR department at the city with no avail. The backpay, excluding overtime and benefits, for the ten affected officers could total upwards of $20,000, but since the step has been “reinstated” under the direction of the Council, there has been no attempt to repay the promoted officers the increase they should have been awarded during the gap period.
The story has another twist.
For some reason, in the spring of 2014, the City of Statesboro elected to vote again on the public safety pay grade and step scale. The policy was the exact same as the one in place since 2009. But the APO pay was “reinstated” for all officers and employees on that pay step.
Here is the pay step scale.
The scale shows that there is a distinct difference between Officer and Advanced Patrol Officer. There has always been a difference between the two, otherwise, it is unlikely the department would consider the transition a ‘promotion.’
- Why is it that between 2010 and June 2014, officers who were promoted to Advanced Patrol Officers were not awarded the pay increase?
- Why would officers be promoted to another pay step at all if there, in fact, was no pay increase?
- If the policy for that pay step was in place from 2009-2014, why did the Statesboro City Council members vote to “reinstate” the pay increase before July 1, 2014 for FY 2015?
- Why haven’t the officers promoted during the freeze been awarded back pay for the time they were qualified to receive a pay increase but did not?
- Why is the HR department not communicating the reason for a lack of back pay to the promoted officers?