Overtime floodgates opened by Kingman City Council

Warnings ignored in 4-3 vote to make police lieutenants eligible for overtime like counterparts in KFD

Kingman Police Chief Bob DeVries, left, and Deputy Chief Rusty Cooper address the City Council at Tuesday’s meeting.

DOUG McMURDO/Miner<BR> Kingman Police Chief Bob DeVries, left, and Deputy Chief Rusty Cooper address the City Council at Tuesday’s meeting.

KINGMAN - Despite a stern warning that doing so would "open the floodgates," a divided City Council at Tuesday's meeting changed the employee classification of three Kingman Police lieutenants to allow them to earn overtime pay.

Four of seven members of the Council voted to give the lieutenants far more than Chief Bob DeVries requested of them when they voted to change the classification from exempt to nonexempt. DeVries only wanted the lieutenants to earn overtime pay when their jobs required them to participate in operations, such as serving a high-risk search warrant, which is often done in the predawn hours, and not when they perform administrative duties, which is the bulk of their workload.

Rather than asking for his lieutenants to be nonexempt, DeVries recommended a "blended" classification, in which they would only be overtime eligible when working operations. Councilman Stuart Yocum asked what the bottom line would be for the city and DeVries said he could not answer that question because there is no history available to determine how much of a lieutenant's day is involved in operations.

Deputy Chief Rusty Cooper told the Council lieutenants work in operations when search warrants are served, but also in critical incidents. They also make arrests, he said.

Council members initially seemed reluctant to take action since DeVries couldn't provide an estimate of what the financial cost would be to the city. The chief said lieutenants working overtime is "situational," and told Mayor Richard Anderson he would have no additional information if the Council, as Anderson suggested, postponed the discussion for two weeks.

Councilman Larry Carver noted the Council recently reclassified three of six Kingman Fire battalion chiefs to nonexempt for the overtime hours they work. "The same should be done with lieutenants," said Carver. "I'd prefer to see the Council change it from exempt to nonexempt." None of Carver's peers pointed out the three battalion chiefs are supervisors who work the same 48-hour shifts as firefighters, and who often respond to calls for service.

"This would open the floodgates," said City Manager John Dougherty. "It will be difficult to differentiate because all exempt employees know they are going to work overtime. I do believe you are opening the floodgates."

Police lieutenants and fire battalion chiefs are on the same pay scale. The entry level annual salary for both positions is $65,000, which is among the lowest in the state for police lieutenants, but more than $20,000 above the median annual salary of roughly $44,000 in Kingman.

In the background lays the Great Recession, which prompted the Council to lay off 10 percent of its 300-person workforce years ago and several vacancies remain in departments throughout the city, including the police department. This in turn has many employees wearing more than one hat, and that includes lieutenants.

Employees went seven years without a salary increase, which created a pay equity problem throughout the city, particularly in the police department, where new hires were earning nearly as much as veteran officers. This is known as compression, and the Council has yet to fully address the issue despite a three percent across the board raise given last year, with those employees affected by compression earning an additional two and a half percent.

Carver asked DeVries if the lieutenants wanted to be nonexempt or blended, and DeVries said they would "like to be nonexempt, but blended would be equitable." Doing so will require the lieutenants to pay more for insurance benefits and their retirement package could also be negatively impacted.

Carver recommended the Council make the reclassification and the vote was 4-3, with Mayor Anderson, Carver, Abram and Yocum voting for the measure and Vice Mayor Carole Young, Jen Miles and Ken Dean voting against the change.

The issue came to a boil late last year when the Council first discussed changing the classification of the three battalion chiefs. Police lieutenants argued the question should have been discussed by a public safety committee before it went to the Council and the Council postponed taking action. There were harsh words exchanged between lieutenants and battalion chiefs outside of Council chambers at City Hall following that meeting.

Also at that meeting, Dougherty told the Miner the lieutenants' complaint was a case of "the fire department got something and we didn't."

"I still stand behind that comment," Dougherty told the newspaper following Tuesday's meeting. His concern - and the concerns of Young, Miles and Dean - is that every other exempt employee in the city will ask for a reclassification in order to earn overtime pay - at a time the Council continues to struggle with shrinking revenue.