Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Monona Council Report - Police Version

Part One of a report of the August 17, 2009 Monona city council meeting. AGENDA Council 8/17/09

The council addressed a number of police-related issues. This post only relates to those items. A separate post will follow with other council items.]

The council and discussed the proposed pair of two-year labor contracts with the Monona police union. The contracts call for wage increases of 2.75% in the first year, then 2.75%, 3.0%, and 3.0%. The contracts also call for increases in employee contributions to the cost of health insurance from the current 5% to 10% by the end of the 2012.

Some members of the council, myself included, have pretty serious reservations about approving these agreements. I have asked for the net cost to the city (increased wage costs the increased employee health insurance premium contributions) before making a decision. A 2.75% or 3.0% wage increase is normally not remotely extravagant or unreasonable. And the city agree to similar wage increases with several other unions. These are not normal times.

It is also worth noting that police officers make more money than any other unionized city employee so that a 2.75% raise for a police officer is significantly more dollars than a 2.75% raise for a library worker. Monona police officers earn a starting salary of about $44,500.

And yes, a police officer's job is more dangerous than other city jobs. And being an officer demands a high level and varied range of knowledge and skills.

My real question is whether the city can afford the increased personnel costs that these contracts would create going into a very difficult budget year (or years). On the other hand, this agreement does get the employee health insurance contribution to 10% and avoids the crap shoot of going to binding arbitration.

Under Wisconsin municipal law, in contract arbitration (also called interest arbitration) each party submits a complete contract offer to a neutral arbitrator. The arbitrator then chooses one proposal or the other; there is middle ground. One side wins and the other loses. A great deal of research, strategy, and tactics are involved in developing the final offer for arbitration. And going to arbitration is expensive, which is another reason for accepting a negotiated settlement even if it you don't really like it.

The contract decision has been complicated by a dispute over furloughs. The police union has also filed a grievance regarding the mayor's proposed single furlough day. Some council members expressed displeasure, myself again included, that the police union had not yet agreed to the single furlough day. I'm getting 16 of them over the next two years, I don't like it, and complained about it, but at the end of the day my union agreed to memorandum of understanding allowing the state to implement the furloughs, which are not otherwise allowed under our contract.

All city employees except the police department and the six full-time firefighters will be taking a one-day unpaid furlough on September 4. Furlough days would be staggered in the police department so that adequate coverage would be maintained for public safety. (Firefighters are not subject to the furlough at all because (I am informed) there is no way to do furloughs for them without incurring overtime pay that would negate the furlough savings.)

The police contract also does not allow for furloughs, but the city administration does have the authority to impose layoffs. I am told that a single officer would have to be laid off for some three months or longer to obtain the savings from a one day department-wide furlough.

We will see how things develop. It is also important to avoid poisoning relations between the city administration and the police officers. As chair of the License Review Committee and more recently the Public Safety Committee, I have had more opportunities to interact not just with the chief, but also with many of the sergeants and patrol officers. I can tell you we have a very high quality police force with some very exceptional people and police professionals.


One of those exceptional police professionals, Officer Adam Nachreiner, is working to develop a K-9 unit. The council asked the Public safety Commission to develop some additional findings before the next council meeting.

Another one of those exceptional police professionals, Sgt. Ryan Losby, spent many hours over at least the past year developing proposed changes to the city ordinances. The council took up a long list of changes on Monday approving many of them on a first reading and asking for more information before a second reading on others.

The council adopted:

Ordinance 08-09-597, Prohibiting Driving Without A Valid License
Ordinance 08-09-598, Prohibiting Aggressive Panhandling
Ordinance 08-09-600, Prohibiting Vagrancy
Ordinance 08-09-601, Regulating Paintball Guns
Ordinance 08-09-602, Prohibiting Inhalation of Toxic Vapors
Ordinance 08-09-603, Prohibiting Sleeping in Vehicles
Ordinance 08-09-605, Possession of Marijuana

Several of these were adopted in order to allow municipal enforcement of a state law that the Dane County District Attorney, citing limited resources, has decided not to prosecute. For example, the DA does not prosecute possession of under 25 grams of marijuana. Due to this policy and a quirk in state law, the city could write tickets for first-time marijuana possession, but not for second-time possession, a situation which made no sense even to me and I am no fan of the 'war on drugs'.

The council asked for more information and a (standard) second reading on these items:

Ordinance 08-09-599, Regulating Skateboards & In-Line Skates
Ordinance 08-09-604, Amending Code of Ordinances Concerning Theft
Ordinance 08-09-606, Standards for Vehicle Equipment
Ordinance 08-09-607, Prohibiting False Complaints of Police Misconduct

Questions or comments?


  1. "he contracts call for wage increases of 2.75% in the first year, then 2.75%, 3.0%, and 3.0%. The contracts also call for increases in employee contributions to the cost of health insurance from the current 5% to 10% by the end of the 2012."

    I think raises of this nature-during these times is unwise, unwarranted and unheard of-

  2. Were false complaints against the police a problem? Or did you just feel the need to give the prosecutor a tool to threaten people with legitimate complaints into silence?

  3. False complaints have not been a problem, but have occurred in the past. The council asked more information regarding the district attorney's policy.