Bellaire police officers seek raise

BELLAIRE Bellaire Police Chief Mike Kovalyk has repeatedly attempted to lobby village council for a $1 per hour raise for the full-time officers in his department.

The department has had just one raise in the last decade.

Kovalyk believed some movement had finally taken place when after further inquiry, Councilman Jerry Fisher motioned to award the police department the bump in pay.

But prior to the final vote on the motion, John Leonard with the Board of Public Affairs asked that the full-time service employees be included in the motion.

All were in agreement, the motion passed 5-0 and all that was left to do was take the matter to committee to draft an ordinance making the pay increase official.

At that same meeting, Leonard got the pay increase he sought for the part-time service department employees, lifting the base pay rate to either $10 or $12 per hour, depending on particular certification or skill set.

Fisher’s successful motion has yet to be made into an ordinance.

But as Kovalyk revealed, it nearly was. Except, the ordinance would have excluded the police department, a fact the chief discovered while out of town on vacation.

“I heard on vacation that an ordinance had been drawn up that the police department was going to be excluded,” Kovalyk said. “The service department was going to get its dollar an hour raise and my guys were going to be left out.”

Law Director Ed Sustercic told council that because of the obvious dissension and apparent anger among certain village employees, he wasn’t going ahead with drafting the ordinance until the situation was resolved for all parties.

“I was requested to draft the ordinance. But I’m not going to give the appearance I’m taking a side,” Sustercic said. “Council needs to take a definitive stance on this.

“I draft what I get from a consensus from the village. Give me direction and I’ll draft it. I’m not going to upset village employees. That is not my role.”

Councilwoman Lou Ann Bennett stated that the decision was made during committee to split the motion into two separate ordinances because of the different funds the service and police departments are paid out of.

The service employees are paid out of the water department’s budget which currently has enough to cover the increase. The police department’s finances, however, are governed by the general fund. Bennett said it was determined increasing costs in the general fund was going to be a difficult proposition and that the committee needed to meet with the department about how to rectify the situation, enabling the raise to be pushed through.

“We have to go back to the police and try to figure out how to afford to give them a $1 an hour raise,” Bennett said.

Clerk Tom Sable read the minutes from a June 12 finance committee meeting that discussed the part-time service employees’ raise, as well as for the full time.

But when the part-time raise ordinance was drafted, the full time employees raise wasn’t included in the ordinance.

Leonard took exception to having to wait for the service employees’ raise.

He explained that he and other members of the board attended the committee meetings, as asked, and had gotten everything in order so that the raise ordinance could be drafted and voted upon.

“It was before the finance committee and then it went before the ordinance committee. It was OK’d so I thought we were ready to go,” Leonard said. “Why aren’t we going through with this? We’ve done everything we are supposed to do on our end.”

Mayor Vince DiFabrizio said he would set a committee meeting for the upcoming week in order to get the situation ironed out prior to the next council meeting.

Leonard asked that if the funding wasn’t available for the police department to receive a pay increase, would the service workers still get theirs.

“It will be settled at the meeting, one way or another,” DiFabrizio said. He didn’t elaborate further.