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Atherton P.D. to cost taxpayers more than $400K more per year

Original post made by Oh no... on Apr 22, 2013

In a development from last week's council meeting that the Almanac has stayed curiously silent on, it was announced that the Atherton police department will cost more than $400K more per year.

That's $400K more than the budget level Atherton taxpayers already can't afford in terms of a balanced budget.

Why?

Because the incredibly rich APOA contract specifies that if an officer goes on leave, existing officers must fill his or her shoes with overtime pay instead of getting a replacement.

This makes no sense for anyone other than the officers getting the overtime. It's a robber baron mentality.

When are Atherton residents going to wake up? When is the Atherton council going to wake up?

Comments (15)

Posted by Baron Robber, a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 22, 2013 at 11:09 am

Robber Baron mentality, in Atherton? Did you really want to use that phrase?

They have learned well from their masters!

sm

Seriously, a cop on leave should institute a hiring process. Okay. Sure. That makes sense. Not.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 22, 2013 at 11:54 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Managing overtime in a public safety agency is always a challenge. The fact is that if you have zero overtime you are probably over-staffed. With a small department like Atherton's police force unexpected sick leave and disability can quickly lead to more than expected overtime. It is not necessarily clear that hiring additional permanent personell, with the lead time for proper training and orientation, and incurring both current cost and long term pension costs is less expensive than the increased overtime.

Fortunately I think Chief Flint is wise enough to strike the correct balance.


Posted by DO the math, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 22, 2013 at 12:03 pm

$400K per year in overtime to fill for an officer on leave is unconscionable, particularly in relation to the entire budget for the department. If Atherton had adopted a two-tier pension system like every other city around, the worry about pension costs in Peter's post above wouldn't be an issue. There's got to be a common sense solution to this, and $400K a year in overtime is clearly not it. No dig against Flint, as this is a creation not entirely (or even mostly, or even appreciably) of his making.


Posted by Baron Robber, a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 22, 2013 at 12:11 pm

DO the math: SHOW us your math. Real world math, not fantasy world 'if we had this or that' math.

Peter patiently explained it, your only response is "There's got to be ..."

Feeling better getting it off your chest is one thing, showing us YOUR math is another.


Posted by DO the math, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 22, 2013 at 12:21 pm

My math: there are unfilled positions at the sergeant level. Hire someone, and have them fill in for the cop on leave instead of using overtime. Pay them to do cop work as a sergeant. It won't be $400K. You can't justify this $400K, no one can.


Posted by Baron Robber, a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 22, 2013 at 12:23 pm

Okay. Why are the sergeant positions still open? Bad management?


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 22, 2013 at 12:25 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The math is simple, the facts are a bit more difficult.

If the current overtime is driven by sick leave and current disability leave it makes no sense to incur a long term cost of hiring a new full time person who will also be earning a very expensive pension.

Long term solutions for a short term problem are inherently unwise.


Posted by Hours, a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 22, 2013 at 2:18 pm

How many hours of overtime a year are they talking about? Is it less expensive to fill an opening than to pay the overtime?


Posted by Oh no..., a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 22, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Everyone seems to be missing a really important point here. How much leave allowance do police officers get in the town of Atherton? There are certain statewide minimums in California for injury, pregnancy, etc. From the looks of it, Atherton cops have negotiated way, way, way more than that allotment of leave. Otherwise, the employee could be given a choice of returning within a reasonable amount of time (the statewide minimum, perhaps a bit more) or being replaced. I wager the amount of leave is incredibly higher than the statewide minimum. That's why the taxpayers are footing this enormous, indefensible bill.

There is one silver lining. When residents need to vote on the parcel tax, certain officers in Atherton are going to have had made a ton of money this year with this overtime. It's going to be really hard for them to argue for increases with a straight face once those salaries hit the Palo Alto Post. This puts the nail in the coffin of the parcel tax.


Posted by Emeritus, a resident of another community
on Apr 22, 2013 at 5:13 pm

The current APOA MOU is found under Item 25 in this Council Packet:
Web Link

"$400K per year in overtime to fill for an officer on leave is unconscionable, particularly in relation to the entire budget for the department."

Why do you assume it's overtime for "an officer" causing this level of additional expense? The Department is short staffed by more than one person. Could there be equipment costs in that number too?.

"Because the incredibly rich APOA contract specifies that if an officer goes on leave, existing officers must fill his or her shoes with overtime pay instead of getting a replacement."

You're wrong. The contract makes no mention of minimum staffing.

"How much leave allowance do police officers get in the town of Atherton? There are certain statewide minimums in California for injury, pregnancy, etc. From the looks of it, Atherton cops have negotiated way, way, way more than that allotment of leave."

You're wrong. Again. The contract spells it out. The cops get the legal holidays plus vacation days. The number of vacation days depends on length of service. The formula has not been adjusted in decades.

"Otherwise, the employee could be given a choice of returning within a reasonable amount of time (the statewide minimum, perhaps a bit more) or being replaced."

You're wrong again. In last week's budget workshop, the City Attorney lays out the difference between regular workers and Police Officers -- as a matter of California law. See video 2 toward the end.


Posted by Oh no..., a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 22, 2013 at 5:49 pm

You're misunderstanding what I call "leave." I didn't mean vacation. I meant leave of absence. I can't find your video citation. Please provide a link and a time within the video can I forward to. The question I'm asking, very precisely, is how long (by California law) may a California police officer take a leave of absence without being replaced versus how long does Atherton allow? That's leave of absence, not vacation. You're too quick to accusing people of being "wrong again."


Posted by Emeritus, a resident of another community
on Apr 22, 2013 at 8:52 pm



It's about 32 minutes into this video: Web Link


Posted by Oh no..., a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 23, 2013 at 10:01 am

Thanks for posting the video. I watched it. The city attorney references section 4850 of the labor code, which I looked up. If a police officer receives an on-the-job injury, he or she must be paid full salary for up to one year while on leave.

The disconnect for me is I am unaware of any Atherton police officer receiving an on-the-job injury that would result in this situation. The blotter has never detailed a police incident in which an officer was injured in recent memory.

I do remember the officer who said she was injured by wearing her belt, and also garnered a $250K settlement from the town because a co-worker allegedly came on to her.

What this tells me is that the Town may not be using discretion in separating out a legitimate, on-the-job injury, from gaming done by certain police officers to abuse the system. The Town should be willing to tell someone gaming the system that 4850 doesn't apply to their situation. This time, if such gaming is taking place,. it would be costing residents over $400K per year.

Please cite the blotter entry that shows an officer was injured on-the-job.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 23, 2013 at 2:46 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here is the Atherton police union agreement:

Web Link


Posted by Oh no..., a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 24, 2013 at 8:12 am

This is so typical. Atherton (on any issue, especially police) says "we didn't make bad decisions, this is just what we're forced into", but when you dig, lots of dirt comes up. Emeritus has referenced a video stating the reason for this $400K body blow to Atherton is because of California law that requires a police officer injured on the job to be on full salary for a year. When I ask him to cite what police officer or incident resulted in an injury, dead silence. And Emeritus is obviously an Atherton cop, having a contracts and talking points at his fingertips.


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