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Frederick Mayor, police union to resume negotiations Tuesday

By Patti S. Borda

Sunday - 7/3/2011, 6:56am  ET

Frederick Mayor Randy McClement and the city's police union will resume contract negotiations on Tuesday, according to Charlie Snyder, president of Francis Scott Key Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 91.

The union's previous contract expired last week. Members rejected the city's last offer, which did not contain salary increases for the force that would cost $152,000.

The mayor has pledged to continue negotiations, and Snyder said McClement invited him to talk further on Tuesday.

"We'll listen to what he has to say," Snyder said by telephone Friday. "The ball's in his court."

McClement said he cannot justify giving the officers a raise.

Snyder said the step increases in pay that constitute the salary structure are not the same as pay raises, but are essential to the contract.

Previously, step increases of 4 percent occurred every year until an officer reached step 10, then every other year until an officer reached step 13, the maximum.

Snyder and McClement have agreed not to disclose some of the contract negotiations, and that includes the benefits that the union has agreed to give back in order to fund the salary increases for this year.

That cost would be $152,000 for about 93 officers, Snyder said.

According to the step increment structure, about 40 of the 133-member force would not be eligible for a raise this year, Snyder said.

Snyder and other officers remain on duty.

McClement said the city will continue to pay them as before.

Snyder said he has called a special meeting of the union for Wednesday, and at that time the members might discuss working to the rule, which would mean performing their jobs but not going beyond required duties.

The city charter prohibits the union from striking or conducting a sickout.

Aldermen debate equity in contracts

The Board of Aldermen does not participate in the contract negotiations, but does approve contracts. Aldermen have requested more details from McClement about the contract so they have more information before voting.

Saundra Nickols, city attorney, said that until both sides have tentatively agreed to a contract, it does not make sense to review the latest version. Alderwoman Kelly Russell, who is a retired Frederick police officer, said the step increase is a part of an employment package that officers count on as they plan their careers.

The ongoing contract negotiations do not affect her retirement benefits.

She supports the step increases for police and would give them to other city employees also.

Russell said the performance-based salary increases that replaced step increases for other city employees have never been adequately funded or implemented, and are not as meaningful as the step plan.

Russell said her perception of the contract negotiation is that the police have been doing all the giving; she does not know what the city has contributed to a compromise.

Government vs. private model

Russell acknowledged that she is at odds with the mayor and some aldermen who say government should run more like private industry, where longevity in a job does not necessarily translate to higher pay, and longevity in one job is not the norm.

Government should be different, Russell said.

Alderwomen Karen Young and Shelley Aloi often refer to private industry standards.

Young and Aloi do not support a raise for the police, considering the city's financial situation and the lack of raises for other city employees in the past three years.

"I am very disappointed that the FOP membership ... is not more flexible about the salary structure issue," Young said via email. "Starting from a $9.9 million (general fund) deficit, it is amazing that we did not have to eliminate any positions.

"There simply are not sufficient financial resources to fund salary increases," Young said.

She said it would not be fair for the union to trade benefits for salary, considering the average police officer salary is $65,000 and the average city employee salary is $45,000.

"I feel strongly that anything that we consider offering to some employees should be feasible for all," Young said. "I believe that we already have enough of a differentiation built into the salary structure. To widen it even further would be inappropriate on a variety of levels."

The city organization is out of balance with private industry standards, Young said, noting that although the mayor is like a chief executive officer, his $90,000 salary is no higher than the base salary of the top 19 police positions, including the chief's. Nine of those positions have base salaries above $100,000.

"This information is quite shocking to me, because I have rarely been in an organization where the CEO is not the highest paid," she said. "The CEO has ultimate responsibility for everything in the organization."

Copyright 2011 The Frederick News-Post. All rights reserved.