B y Jaime Thomas
It all comes down to a contract.
Gordon Smith, a Granville Village Trustee, expressed his misgivings at a meeting last week about a 100 percent increase in police overtime pay within the budget.
Issues within the police union contract have since come to light.
Both Police Chief Ernie Bassett and Dave Williams, president of the Police Benevolent Association, said they raised these concerns last June during contract negotiations.
“We already raised the red flag and told them to do certain things, and they didn’t do those things. From the beginning we said the schedule will not work unless you hire another part-timer. The union made no bones about it — you need to take money and put it into the part time and overtime line item. We also gave them areas to save,” Williams said.
Overtime allowance doubled from $27,000 to $59,000 this year, and full-time officers on staff dropped from six to four. The officers now work on a fixed schedule, which makes it hard to fill hours on the weekend and when someone is out sick.
At this point, everyone seems to agree there is a strong need for more part-time police officers in Granville. Mayor Brian LaRose said the schedule in its present form is not perfect, but this is the first time the village has dealt with such an issue.
“We are going to look into the addition of part-time officers, and it’s my plan to meet with the union and see what we can do as far as the schedule itself,” LaRose said.
But Williams is not sure the board is proactively approaching the issue. He mentioned Josh Whitney, a full-time Granville officer who recently resigned.
“Josh left for fear of no stability. He agreed to stay on part time, and the village said no,” Williams said. LaRose said the board thought it best to sever ties with Whitney after he severed employment with them.
“There was nothing personal. We’re sorry to see this individual go,” he said.
As the police department looks to hire new employees to fill holes in the schedule, an apparent catch-22 is standing in the way.
In the contract, the village stipulates new hires must be certified; however, most certification programs require sponsorship from a police department. Both Bassett and Williams said this ties the chief’s hands, and the village has since rejected potential employee names police submitted to them.
Williams said the union was clear about these problems, but Michael Richardson, the village’s negotiator, did not listen.
“We use a schedule that this guy from downstate came up with. We continually told them this wouldn’t work,” Williams said.
Bassett wrote a formal letter to the village board expressing these concerns.
“I am not saying they didn’t listen to me, but they chose to go a different route than I recommended,” Bassett said.
While Williams questioned the negotiator’s recommendations, LaRose said Richardson was hired for his experience.
“We knew it was going to be complicated, and we wanted to get someone who has done this before. This is what he does for a living,” LaRose said.
Contract stipulations now create a high need for overtime pay, as there is a set schedule assigned to each full-time officer.
“If I have a hole in the schedule I can’t fill and I move somebody, it becomes overtime. If there’s any kind of big case or anyone out sick, it creates holes in the schedule. Anytime I deviate from that (the schedule), it becomes overtime,” Bassett said.
However, he pointed out that the high budget number is not as dramatic as it looks. He said a lot of overtime is reimbursed by grants, and the department also receives grants for DWI patrol.
“Overtime is over, but the overall police budget is only 3 percent over. One line item is out of whack, but there are savings elsewhere,” Williams said. He said the $59,000 overtime budget is artificially high, as reimbursement from the state often supplements it.
“It is inherent to a police department to have overtime. The goal is we need to look at that and get us to a normalcy. I have nothing but confidence that that will happen,” LaRose said.