New Monroeville police contract inked early
By Kyle Lawson
Published: Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
A new contract for Monroeville police has been approved by council, though some officials question the timing of the vote.
The previous contract wasn't slated to expire until December 2014. The new contract — which voided the final months of the previous deal — took effect Oct. 8, after council approved it 4-3. It will run through Dec. 31, 2017.
Council members Jim Johns, Steve Duncan and Nick Gresock dissented.
“I don't understand the rush to extend it now in the middle of the (current) contract,” Gresock said.
The average police salary in Monroeville is about $30,000 more than the average police salary in Pennsylvania, he said.
A new contract could have been a way to reduce salaries and save money, but this one doesn't, Gresock said.
Under the terms of the new deal, as with the old, officers are hired at a salary of about $52,000, and after four years of service, their salary increases to about $96,000 annually.
For overtime, they are paid at a rate 1.5 times their hourly salary, and they have an annual number of sick days ranging from five to 30, based on years of service.
Mayor Greg Erosenko said he agrees with maintaining the salaries of police officers moving forward.
“I don't have any problem paying our cops the salary they're making,” Erosenko said. “I'm good with that. They're the ones wearing the gun and on the street and not me.”
One change to the contract is a clause addressing long-term disability for nonwork-related illness, officials said. The contract guarantees a long-term disability rate that peaks at 50 percent of an officer's average monthly wage after 15 years of service.
Only officers who receive more than 100 percent of their average wage through long-term disability and other means — such as federal Social Security for people with disabilities — could receive a reduced amount of disability pay from the municipality's insurer, under the new contract.
Municipal Manager Lynette McKinney said early negotiations “happen all over the county.”
Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 91 representative Dennis Dunegan disagreed. Lodge 91 is based in West Homestead and represents several suburban police departments, including Monroeville's.
“Most departments have a very difficult time trying to negotiate contracts,” said Dunegan, a former Penn Hills police officer. “Seventy-five percent of the time it goes to arbitration.”
The Plum Police Department reached a new contract earlier this year about six months before the old contract expired.
Monroeville Councilman Clarence Ramsey said he voted in favor of the new contract because it seemed to be the right thing to do.
“I just went along with what we were supposed to be doing,” Ramsey said. “The information we had at the time sounded good.”
A multiyear union contract typically is discussed by council in an executive session meeting before a vote is taken, which was not the case with this contract, Duncan said.
“All of a sudden, it appeared in the ordinance section of the agenda,” he said.
Duncan said it is unfair for a majority of council to approve a four-year contract less than three months before the terms of four council members expire. All four council members who voted in favor of the contract have terms expiring at the end of this year and were defeated in the May primary.
The voting dynamic on council could change as a result of the Nov. 3 general election; newly-elected council members take office in January.
“It's another extension that I think incoming council should have a say,” Duncan said.
Attorney Craig Alexander, who represents Pitcairn and Penn Hills, said it would be “very difficult” from a legal standpoint for a future council to renegotiate the police contract.
Kyle Lawson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8755, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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