Board OKs pay hikes for Crestwood police during closed session

Pay raises initially given in May, June without board vote

By BURKE WASSON

Immediately after a July 8 meeting in which a Crestwood alderman questioned pay raises given in May and June to 15 police officers without board approval, aldermen voted in closed session to accept those raises.

The Board of Aldermen voted 5-2 during the July 8 closed session “to approve the salary and pay adjustments previously implemented within the Police Department as part of the restructuring plan.”

Ten police officers received salary increases collectively totaling $12,732 on May 15 — two days after Police Chief Michael Paillou made a presentation to the Board of Aldermen during a May 13 closed session. Paillou’s presentation involved a restructuring of the Police Department that included promotions and pay raises to be utilized through funds saved from the midyear retirement of former Capt. Rick Downs and two resignations.

Additionally, five officers received salary increases collectively totaling $23,303 on June 1.

Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel, who initially discussed these raises in public at the July 8 board meeting, and Ward 1 Alderman Mac McGee voted “no” to these raises in the July 8 closed session while Ward 4 Alderman Steve Nieder was absent.

Miguel said he voted “no” because he believes the city’s police officers already are adequately paid and because he believes the City Code may have been violated.

“I was not pleased that the promotions and the pay raises were implemented prior to board approval,” Miguel said. “… The mere fact that it occurred troubled me. And then as I looked into it further, I came across the requirement or the statement in the City Code. And that pretty much solidified my concern and my feelings.”

Section 20-2 (d) of the City Code states that “compensation of the chief of police and of all other members of the police force shall be provided for by ordinance or resolution.”

When asked last week how these pay raises could be awarded without ordinance or resolution as required by the City Code, City Attorney Rob Golterman replied, “I’m not going to comment on personnel matters.”

He also said the board was permitted to meet in closed session July 8 to vote on the previously awarded pay raises “because it’s a personnel matter.”

But when asked which section of law would allow this decision to be made in closed session, Golterman said, “I don’t have any comment.”

However, Missouri Press Association attorney Jean Maneke told the Call last week that while the board legally can meet in closed session to discuss the five promotions, the 10 pay increases without promotions must be done in open session according to the state’s Open Meetings and Records Law, also called the Sunshine Law.

“He (Golterman) needs to read the rule,” Maneke said. “The rule is pretty specific that it’s only hiring, firing, disciplining and promoting that is subject to closed session.”

While the 10 initial pay raises went into effect on May 15, both Paillou and Golterman have said that the board did not take any votes in the May 13 closed session when aldermen were presented with the proposal.

When asked through e-mail from City Clerk Tina Flowers if the city had taken any votes in that May 13 closed session, Golterman replied in a May 15 e-mail to Flowers with one word — “nope.”

The police chief said last week that while aldermen did not take any votes during that May 13 closed session, they asked “few questions” and seemed to be pleased with his restructuring proposal.

The chief added that had he known that pay adjustments were required to be done by ordinance or resolution according to the City Code, he would have went that route in public.

“If it’s a technical foul, it is,” Paillou said. “I didn’t think to look back to 1965 (when the City Code was published). There’s been pay plan after pay plan in this place in the 25 years that I’ve been here … We would have done it (by ordinance or resolution). I just honestly didn’t think to look 40-something years back.”

The police chief said his restructuring proposal was taken through the city’s administration, which was being headed at the time on an interim basis by Fire Chief Karl Kestler after former City Administrator Frank Myers resigned in March.

“We were running through the chain of command,” he said. “It started from my staff working on it to discussing it with the city administrator. He advised to take it to the Police Board. We got the Police Board’s nod (at a May 12 public meeting). And then going into (May 13) executive session with the Board of Aldermen to inform them of the reorganization.”

While he was present at the May 13 closed session in which the pay raises were first presented to the board, Miguel said last week that he needed to make them public now to bring more transparency to the city’s government.

“It’s always difficult to bring issues like that to the attention of the public,” Miguel said. “But one of the things that I feel I need to do as an alderman is to have all of the information brought to public attention with 100-percent transparency in all public matters. And my focus is usually the financial, but this happened to be an area where I think that some additional transparency was necessary.

“… I feel that when the city is going to take action of this type, it should be done in public session. It is information that I feel should have been done in public.”

Miguel said he got a true picture of the exact amounts of the raises after he requested a copy of the city’s updated salaries after the June 1 promotions.

“I asked for a copy of the updated salary sheet,” Miguel said. “And I received a copy of that and I compared it to the corresponding salary sheet of 2008 that was prepared for the 2008 budget. And I did that on a line-by-line basis. And that’s how I discerned that there were 10 salary increases in addition to the five promotions. And from that, I was also able to discern the amounts of the promotions and the amounts of the salary increases. That was the process that I used to determine. I did a side-by-side comparison, and everything jumped out.”

And, while the Police Department’s five promotions can be done in closed session, Maneke maintains that the department’s 10 pay adjustments should have been done in public.

“Definitely, the Sunshine Law says that if you’re not promoting somebody, then that’s not a reason to hold a closed meeting just because you’re giving them a pay raise, particularly because salary is always a matter of public record,” she said. “It’s not something that’s closed.”