Seaford delays police special duty pay hike

By Tony E. Windsor

Members of the Seaford council admitted that a proposed increase in special duty pay for city police officers may have been given more immediate consideration if it had not come to their attention through the police department's "Collective Bargaining Unit."
During the Tuesday, Oct. 26, meeting of Seaford Mayor and Council, Glenn Van Fleet of the Seaford Police Department appeared before the council to answer any questions about the requested pay increase.
The special duty pay is what officers, usually off duty, are paid to work special community events. These are mainly school functions such as basketball games. Currently officers earn $25 per hour to man such events. The police department has requested that the city give its approval for bringing that pay up to $35 per hour.
Van Fleet told the council that officers with the Delaware State Police are getting between $45 and $55 per hour for special duty pay. He said he did not think Seaford's special duty pay rate has been increased since 1989.
City Manager Dolores Slatcher said she would have to check to make sure, but she thought the pay might have been increased in 1994.
Councilman Larry Miller said he had a concern about discussing special duty pay increases when the city is not currently in contract negotiations with the police department.
"I agree with this rate request," he said. "However, how do we justify discussing pay increases when we already have a contract with the police department? This request should have come when we were in contract negotiations. As a council member representing our constituency I have difficulty doing negotiations outside of negotiations."
Van Fleet said the special duty pay is not a bargaining issue. "This is not an issue that involves bargaining directly with the city," he said. "The special duty pay is charged to the school, not the city. The city actually benefits from this agreement."
Miller said the fact that the request for a special duty pay increase came from letterhead signed by the shop steward of the police department's "Collective Bargaining Unit" made the issue "difficult" for him to address.
The request for a pay increase came to Seaford Police Chief Richard Pounsberry from Ernie Lyons, shop stewart with the Collective Bargaining Unit of the Seaford Police Department.
In the letter, Lyons stated that according to the police department's contract with the city, the chief of police is the first person that the Collective Bargaining Unit should contact when making such requests. Lyons asked that Pounsberry "forward the letter accordingly."

Councilman Ed Butler agreed with Miller saying that the city knows it will be facing contract negotiations with the police department "up the road." He said that he would possibly not support the pay increase "because of who it came from."
Slatcher said she also found it "interesting" that the request was sent to the city through the Collective Bargaining Unit shop steward.
Van Fleet said he understood their concern, but the police department felt that it would be better to bring the request up before the city council rather than simply inform the school that the rate for special duty pay had increased.
Slatcher said that would not have been appropriate.
"The special duty pay is billed to the school by the city," she said. "It all falls under the auspices of the city, unless you (police department) wanted to act as an independent agent. I don't think you want to do that because of having to deal with such things as employee taxes and social security."
Van Fleet agreed with Slatcher.
Seaford Mayor Daniel Short said he found it unusual that the police department's shop steward is a retiree of the police department. "Usually the union shop steward is an on-the-job person. In this case we have a retiree. That seems unusual to me," he said.
Van Fleet said he had no answer for that. He said Lyons is the steward for the Sussex Fraternal Order of the Police and was elected to the position by the police department's Collective Bargaining Unit.
Short said the pay increase request came across to the city as a bargaining issue because it was sent on Collective Bargaining Unit letterhead. He said it would have been better if the request had come directly from the Seaford Police Department.
Van Fleet said he had nothing to do with how the request was sent and was simply "a messenger."
Short said he appreciated Van Fleet's appearance, but questioned why the author of the request was not present instead.
"If this is that important I would think the person who wrote the letter would be here. To tell you the truth, I was surprised to see you walk in here tonight," Short said.
Van Fleet responded to Short saying, "It (the pay issue) is important to the guys who work these events."
Miller motioned that the special duty pay increase be tabled until there was an opportunity to "ascertain points from both sides of the issue" and then bring it back at a later time. The council approved the motion.
Short told Van Fleet that perhaps he could convey to the police department and its representatives how the pay increase request was viewed by the council and how it might have been viewed differently if it had been presented in another way.