New police contract will see Marco Island cops paid more competitive salaries
This is a six-month review of the most-read crime stories in Collier County on naplesnews.com from September 2018 to February 2019. Vonna Keomanyvong, firstname.lastname@example.org; 239-213-5380
After going nearly a year without an agreement, the city of Marco Island and its police union have come to terms on a new contract that will make officers' salaries more competitive with other agencies in Southwest Florida.
The new three-year contract, which was unanimously approved Tuesday by the City Council, will see starting pay increase to $50,537 from a range $41,612-$45,943. Sergeants will see more than a $10,000 bump in starting pay to $65,800 due to wage compression.
Current officers who receive a satisfactory performance evaluation will also see a 5% bump in pay each year, retroactive to Oct. 1, 2018.
Before reaching an agreement, the city's police salaries were among the lowest compared to other Southwest Florida law enforcement agencies, many of which received wage increases as a result of their new contracts.
In a memo to the council in which he recommended approval of the contract, City Manager Mike McNees said the contract will have a net budgetary impact of $177,000 over three years.
To offset wage increase costs for the current fiscal year, the union agreed to forfeit the $60,000 budgeted for skill incentive pay this year. The skill pay incentive will resume in years two and three of the contract.
Among the other highlights of the contract, McNees wrote that for disciplinary matters subject to arbitration, an arbitrator is limited to "enumerated subject matter" and cannot substitute his or her judgment in place of the city unless the discipline handed out exceeds what a reasonable person would find appropriate.
There are currently two matters going through the arbitration process that were set in motion within the last year.
Officer Kevin Hennings was terminated in September 2018 after an internal affairs investigation determined he violated multiple departmental policies, including having sex while on duty.
A representative of now-former officer Tige Thompson has also requested arbitration after he was removed from the force because of his ability to perform the written duties of being an officer.
Thompson was removed from patrol and placed on administrative leave in February after the Naples Daily News reported how none of his arrests went to trial due to the state attorney's office's position that it would not use him as a witness in criminal trials because of credibility issues.
The city chose to remove Thompson from the force by asserting that he could not fulfill the duties of an officer, which included being able to testify at trials. Although the city offered Thompson civilian employment in the form of a code enforcement position, former City Manager David Harden told the Naples Daily News in July that Thompson declined the city's offer and opted for arbitration.
The new contract has been a long time coming, with union negotiations kicking off more than a year ago.
The union had originally eyed implementing a step-plan to not only boost salaries but help it identify where they could expect their salaries to be in the future.
During previous negotiation sessions, both union and department officials expressed the need for increased pay to attract and retain better talent.
Many of the department's officers fell below the minimum sustainable wage of $66,000 to support a family of four in Collier County, making it incredibly difficult for officers to live within city limits.
Negotiations, however, experienced numerous hiccups, including multiple meetings being canceled and rescheduled after city officials no-showed meetings.
The police department's representation also had its own issues.
On May 21, officers voted to change its union representation from the Gulf Coast Police Benevolent Association to the Florida State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police, which finalized the new deal.