Hilliard Northwest News

Hilliard, police union ink three-year deal

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Hilliard police officers will receive a 5.5 percent salary increase this year but agreed to hand over to the city administration all decisions concerning health-care plans as part of a three-year contract between Hilliard and Fraternal Order of Police Capital City Lodge No. 9.

Council voted 6-0 to accept the contract. Joe Erb was absent.

The three-year contract is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2014, and will extend through Dec. 31, 2016.

Hilliard had assumed a 3 percent salary increase for 2014, but agreed to a 5.5 percent increase this year and salary increases of 2.5 percent in 2015 and 2016.

The larger-than-anticipated salary increase required City Council to approve an emergency ordinance July 14 .

Council originally budgeted $145,000 to cover the projected 3 percent salary increase in 2014, Finance Director David Delande said.

The emergency ordinance approved July 14 appropriates $120,704 to cover the difference, Delande said.

Union members approved the city's contract proposal July 7. Council had 30 days to ratify the agreement, doing so at the last scheduled meeting before summer recess. City Council is scheduled to return from recess Aug. 25.

Dan Guttman, an attorney with Baker & Hostetler who represented the Hilliard administration in the collective-bargaining sessions with the FOP, said the 5.5-percent salary increase was a "market raise" the FOP sought to align the pay of Hilliard police officers with those of such comparable departments as Dublin, Upper Arlington and Westerville.

Guttman said Hilliard historically has been among the top five best-paid departments in Franklin County, but fell below the mark after receiving a virtual net-zero raise in the most recent three-year contract that expired Dec. 31, 2013.

The average salary of a Hilliard police officer, based on the 2014 amount in the new contract and current levels of seniority, is $74,923, according to Delande.

The starting salary for a rookie officer, again based on the 2014 amount in the new contract, is $50,456, Delande said.

Hilliard officers worked under the terms of the old contract while negotiations continued through the first half of 2014.

"To offset the wage increase, there were a number of other points the administration had and we accomplished them," Guttman said at the July 14 meeting of the public safety and legal affairs committee.

Those points included how officers are disciplined, maximum accrual of "comp time" and oversight of group health, dental and vision benefits.

According to the new contract, health, dental and vision benefits will be provided to police officers under the group insurance and benefit plan that applies to nonbargaining employees of the city.

"This was the cornerstone of the deal (and) a primary concern on which we didn't budge," Guttman said. "It's a huge advantage for the city to have control of its health-care plan (and) the discretion to modify it as deemed necessary."

New Albany and Worthington are other Franklin County cities in which the administration, rather than the FOP, has sole discretion over health-care plans, Guttman said.

The city also is required to provide 30 days notice in any changes to the health plan, such as premium or co-pay adjustments, Guttman said.

Concerning disciplinary actions, the new contract provides the chief of police with the power to render decisions rather than a divisional board of review.

Under the former contract, a divisional board of review comprising an accused officer's peers considered disciplinary matters. Under the new contract, members facing disciplinary action would be entitled to a chief's hearing, to be held no later than 30 days following the completion of an investigation.

The officer and an FOP representative would be entitled to copies of all records related to the investigation and the chief would issue a disciplinary decision within 14 days of the hearing.

Appeals would be directed to an arbitrator rather than the Civil Service Commission.

Also under the new contract, compensatory time banks will be reduced from a maximum of 480 hours to 240 hours.

Officers with more than 240 hours will be able to cash in the excess hours by Dec. 31, 2014, or keep the hours. Those who keep hours in excess of 240 cannot add to the total.

In response to City Council's inquiry about the length of negotiations, Guttman said, they lasted longer than usual because "we weren't splitting the baby on certain topics."

"We are thrilled (with the contract) from an administrative standpoint," Guttman told City Council members.

"Like all negotiations, there was give and take, but at the end of the day, we think the contract is a fair deal," said Jason Pappas, president of the police union.

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