Court action temporarily stops layoffs of four police officers
BY BRIAN BARBER World Staff Writer
Thursday, January 28, 2010
1/28/10 at 7:41 PM
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As more than 150 Tulsa police officers turn in their guns and badges and leave the force Friday, they will take $1.2 million with them.
Each of the laid-off officers will receive an average of $7,847 in vacation, compensation time and two weeks’ severance pay, city Budget Director Pat Connelly told the Tulsa World.
Meanwhile, Tulsa’s police union obtained a temporary restraining order Thursday in Tulsa County District Court to prevent four of the 155 affected officers from being laid off Friday because of seniority issues.
And some city councilors are looking to make changes in Mayor Dewey Bartlett’s budget-cutting plan, but at this point they are not to prevent police or firefighter layoffs.
Police payouts: The laid-off officers are receiving so much money because many of them have a lot of accrued compensation time, some more than 200 hours’ worth, Connelly said.
The payout range is from about $2,300 to $14,000, he said.
The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 93 voted overwhelmingly this week to reject Bartlett’s proposal to avoid the layoffs. It involved millions of dollars in salary cuts and other concessions.
At a news conference Thursday, Bartlett said the only option for the union at this point is to re-vote on the same proposal.
“I hope that’s what they do,” he said. “If they can imagine two or three months down the road when they haven’t found a job, they are falling behind on their mortgage payments and bills are piling up, I think they would reconsider.”
FOP representatives reached out to the Mayor’s Office on Thursday with their previous suggestions to retain the officers, Bartlett said, but those ideas are still “unaffordable and unacceptable.”
FOP Trustee Ryan Perkins said the idea of the union re-voting on the same proposal “makes absolutely no sense, considering 90 percent were against it.”
The mayor said he doesn’t know whether he still will seek to redirect $2.4 million in Justice Assistance Grant money to hire back some of the officers. That was part of his proposal to the union.
Bartlett said the grant money is already allocated toward other projects but that he will talk to interim Police Chief Chuck Jordan to determine its best use.
Tulsa firefighters are voting on a concessions offer from the mayor to avoid layoffs of their own. The result will be in Sunday.
But if the vote rejects the proposal, the 147 firefighters who will be let go also will have payouts totaling nearly $1.2 million, Connelly said.
Each of the laid-off firefighters would receive an average of $7,829 in vacation, two weeks’ severance and other cash benefits, he said. The payout range is from about $2,700 to $15,000.
A total of 59 civilian employees also are being laid off Friday. Each is receiving two weeks of severance and being paid for unused vacation time.
Court order: Tulsa County District Court Judge Linda Morrissey granted a temporary restraining order that prevents the city from laying off Officers John Williams, Naresh Persaud, Mary Bohanon and Aaron McPherson.
FOP attorney Jim Moore said the officers maintain that their seniority is not being correctly factored by the city. The layoffs of the 155 officers are occurring based on seniority.
The four officers making the claim are on the threshold.
A full hearing on an injunction is set for 2 p.m. Feb. 9. City officials said the Legal Department is reviewing the matter.
Council budget action: Four councilors next week will pursue a resolution stating the council’s intent to raise the amount being cut from the city’s Information Technology Department to 7.7 percent, or a total of $1.3 million, to be able to reduce the cuts pending in other departments.
As it stands now, the IT Department is facing the same 4.4 percent cut as all other city departments, or $744,000.
Councilor Bill Christiansen, who is proposing the action along with Councilors Jack Henderson, Roscoe Turner and Jim Mautino, said the effort is not to alleviate police or firefighter layoffs but instead to lessen cuts planned to the Lift Program, which is the para-transit bus service, the school crossing guard program and the Crime Commission.
“These are areas that we think are critical that have high impacts on the citizens of Tulsa,” Christiansen said.
The resolution also recommends that the mayor achieve this savings by restructuring the IT Department to eliminate highly paid management positions. It is up for discussion at Tuesday’s council committee meetings.
Many of the councilors are concerned about losing so many police officers and possibly firefighters, Christiansen said.
But the budget holes for those departments may be too much to overcome.
“Whenever you add money to one area, you have to take it from somewhere else,” he said. “I don’t know if we can accomplish that.”
The council was briefed earlier this week by finance officials that budget amendments will be coming to them soon for approval to formally reduce the city’s general fund budget by $10.4 million.
While councilors do not have control over employee layoffs, which is in the mayor’s purview, they can seek to change the dollar amounts being cut from departments. Then the administration would have to adjust to the reallocations if the council has a veto-proof majority.
Bartlett said he hopes councilors “don’t make any snap judgments based on emotions and not discussions with management.”
“That could put us in a bad situation,” he said.
Tulsa police FOP attorney James Moore. JOEY JOHNSON/ For the Tulsa World