Coun­cil ta­bles po­lice salary hikes

Phoenixville of­fi­cials de­lay de­ci­sions on raises for 2 of­fi­cers

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Eric Devlin ede­vlin@21st-cen­tu­ry­ @Eric_Devlin on Twit­ter

PHOENIXVILLE >> Two agenda items aimed at giv­ing two po­lice of­fi­cers a raise in pay were put on hold for now as bor­ough coun­cil tries to de­ter­mine how much it will cost.

In a 5-3 de­ci­sion, coun­cil tabled a rec­om­men­da­tion to credit Of­fi­cer An­thony Duch­nosky’s salary for his prior po­lice ser­vice. Coun­cil mem­bers Jonathan Ewald, Cather­ine Do­herty and Jeremy Dal­ton dis­sented. Coun­cil also tabled a rec­om­men­da­tion to com­pen­sate Lt. Thomas Sjostrom’s salary to that of for­mer po­lice Chief Wil­liam Moss­man’s retroac­tive to Sept. 12, un­til a new chief is se­lected. Do­herty dis­sented again. Coun­cil mem­ber Michael Kuz­nar was ab­sent for the sec­ond vote hav­ing been dis­con­nected from a tele­con­fer­ence call.

The is­sue with Sjostrom’s salary was dis­cussed dur­ing ex­ec­u­tive ses­sion.

With Duch­nosky, Sjostrom ex­plained that there is a pro­vi­sion in the po­lice con­tract that al­lows the bor­ough to credit the salary for an of­fi­cer with at least six months of prior po­lice ex­pe­ri­ence.

“So if an of­fi­cer comes to our depart­ment with six months of ser­vice or more, it gives us that op­tion to credit them six months faster un­til they’re at 90 per­cent (of their full salary),” he said. “They would still wait a year to get to their 100 per­cent. In­stead of wait­ing two years, it ex­pe­dites it to a year and a half.”

Coun­cil mem­ber Jon Ichter II seemed to bris­tle at the idea of speed­ing up the process of pay­ing Duch­nosky his full salary.

“We added in the ad­di­tional po­lice of­fi­cer be­cause we were told it would be X per­cent­age of salary to cover,” he said, “and now we’re speed­ing that up so we’re pay­ing even more sooner, which is what we were told we weren’t go­ing to do.”

Mayor Michael Speck re­minded Ichter that Duch­nosky’s con­tract is al­ready bud­geted at 100 per­cent.

“This just per­mits us to go from 80 to 90 per­cent,” he said.

Ichter said he un­der­stood the ra­tio­nale but the board was sold on the idea it would only have to pay 80 per­cent of the salary. He then asked why Duch­nosky’s con­tract was be­ing cred­ited now in­stead of in March when he was first sworn in. Bor­ough Man­ager Jean Krack ex­plained there is a six-month pro­ba­tion­ary pe­riod to de­ter­mine whether a new hire will be a good of­fi­cer.

Un­sat­is­fied, Ichter ques­tioned why coun­cil wasn’t in­formed at the end of the pro­ba­tion­ary pe­riod that the salary hike was a pos­si­bil­ity. He also re­it­er­ated his frus­tra­tion for be­liev­ing the bor­ough would only have to pay 80 per­cent.

“I don’t care what we bud­geted,” he said. “We kept talk­ing about what we’re pay­ing and now all of the sud­den we’re pay­ing more.”

Duch­nosky and Of­fi­cer An­thony Gray, Phoenixville’s 29th and 30th of­fi­cers,

were sold to coun­cil as hav­ing a grace pe­riod where they were paid 80 per­cent of their salary, Ichter said. The dif­fer­ence be­tween the two was that Gray’s salary would in­crease to 100 per­cent in 2017 be­cause it was un­bud­geted, Krack said. Sjostrom then said Gray would also be el­i­gi­ble for the same type of salary credit.

Gray took the oath of of­fice July 12.

Coun­cil Vice Pres­i­dent Dana Dugan said she was frus­trated over the fact that be­cause Gray would only re­ceived 80 per­cent of his salary, it would give coun­cil “wig­gle room” in the bud­get but that hasn’t hap­pened.

“Since then some of the things that would have gone as bud­get trans­fer re­quests have ac­tu­ally been tak­ing out of the gen­eral fund be­cause we’re pretty much out of money I guess in the po­lice depart­ment,” she said. “Not only are we over that al­ready, but now we’re go­ing to make it even higher than what we thought.”

Ewald said the pro­vi­sion was in the con­tract as a re­cruit­ing tool to bring in the best can­di­dates for the depart­ment. He called it a ben­e­fit for Duch­nosky to have back­ground ex­pe­ri­ence.

“With all due re­spect, Mr. Ewald, we were sold a bill of goods,” Ichter replied. “That shouldn’t change. That’s some­body’s word.”

Coun­cil mem­ber Ed­win Soto then said this is why the bor­ough bud­gets at 100 per­cent salary for “the un­fore­see­ables.”

Coun­cil Pres­i­dent James Ko­valeski said he wanted the is­sue to be vet­ted through the finance com­mit­tee. Soto then called for the is­sue to be tabled.

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