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Earning More Than Your Boss: Dearborn Lieutenant Makes More Than Chief of Police, Mayor

Mayor: 'We are working to transform these contracts to something that makes more sense'

The highest paid city official in Dearborn in 2011 wasn’t Mayor John B. O’Reilly.

It was a police lieutenant who had a gross salary of $151,856 in 2011, or $17,233 more than what the mayor’s gross salary was, and $32,758 more than what the police chief earned.

Six-figured gross salaries are not unusual for police departments throughout Michigan.

A Dearborn police sergeant made $134,505 in gross salary in 2011, which was a $39,747 increase over the sergeant’s 2010 gross pay. Five police department employees had gross pay of more than $120,000 in 2011. In all, 29 of the 185 police employees listed on Freedom of Information Act request for gross salaries made $100,000 or more in 2011.

City officials say there were numerous reasons for the six-figured police salaries.

Police routinely get paid overtime, as is the nature of police work. For example, in 2011 Pastor Terry Jones made national news by coming to Dearborn to protest outside the Islamic Center of America. Those types of events generally trigger a lot of overtime in police departments.

Another reason is that some members of the police department received retroactive payments after their union contracts were settled. In some cases, the retroactive payments cover more than one year. Some police members also received retroactive longevity payments, supervisor bonuses, gun and clothing allowances and sick leave reimbursement. Some police employees also were allowed to “cash in” their banked extra time they spent on the job.

Mayor O’Reilly called the overtime “pattern and practice” that has been going on for years.

Mayor O’Reilly said many sergeants and lieutenants in the police department get big bumps in pay via overtime in their final three years of service. That allows them to increase how much their pensions will be since pension formulas include the last few years of gross pay in their calculations.

Mayor O’Reilly says he put a plan in place to cap the amount of overtime those employees can get before they retire. He also limited the amount of “minute time” police can compile. “Minute time” is the time police employees are on-the-clock after their shift for roll call as well as time spent during shift changes, for which they can be paid.

The mayor said he is working through negotiations to change some of these past practices. Seven of the city’s union contracts are open and the police and fire contracts expire in June.

“Step-by-step we are working to transform these contracts to something that makes more sense,” he said.

The city has also switched seven of the city’s unions from a defined–benefit retirement plan to a less expensive 401(k) type defined-contribution plan, Mayor O’Reilly said. Police and fire unions are still in a “defined benefit” retirement plan, but the city’s contributions to that plan have been renegotiated so they are the equivalent as if the city was doing a defined-contribution plan, Mayor O’Reilly said.

In 2011, the city of Dearborn raised its millage to the highest rate possible and then voter approved a measure allowing the city to increase it even more.

“Most residents will be shocked to learn there’s that many six-figure wage-earners in this department, especially when the city keeps asking citizens to pay ever higher taxes,” said Jack McHugh, a legislative analyst for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, in an e-mail.

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See also:

Despite Deficit, Some Dearborn Top Officials Got Boosts in Pay

Township Board Creates New Tax Rather Than Trim 'Ridiculously Generous' Benefits

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