CPA firm says Albion overpaid police officers $236K over 5 years

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 July 2022 at 11:49 am

Mayor pushes for money to be paid back: Union files grievance

ALBION – A forensic accounting firm has revealed the Village of Albion overpaid police officers $236,000 over five years, a situation that continues every pay period.

A clerical error has resulted in officers being paid at a higher rate, Mayor Angel Javier Jr. said. Representatives from The Bonadio Group – Brian LaFountain and Melissa Bucukoviski – presented their findings on July 12 to the Village Board.

Angel Javier Jr.

Most of the village employees are on 40-hour week schedules. But the police officers are on an 84-hour schedule every two weeks.

The officers in 2017 were switched from three 8-hour shifts a day to two 12-hour shifts. That change was made to reduce overtime in the department and give officers more days off. They would also be paid four more hours of straight every pay period, from 80 to 84 hours.

With the 12-hour shifts, sometimes officers work three in one week and four in others.

To determine the hourly pay in the salaries, the village should have divided the annual salaries by 2,184 hours. That’s 84 hours multiplied by 26 weeks.

However, the village used the hours in a 40-hour week or 2,080 for the year. When the salary was divided by 2,080, instead of 2,184, the hourly rate was about 5 percent higher than it should have been.

Bonadio said 15 officers were overpaid ranging from $650 to a maximum of $27,000, Bonadio said in a report to the village.

Javier said the village needs to recoup the overpayments, especially now that the overpayments have been detailed by a professional firm.

He made a decision last month to have the officers paid at what should be the correct rates, about a 5 percent pay reduction from what the officers had been receiving. That only lasted one pay period.

Three board members – Zack Burgess, Chris Barry and Tim McMurray – voted to have the officers paid at the rates they had been receiving. At that time the forensic audit from Bonadio wasn’t completed.

The village is asking the State Comptroller’s Office for an opinion on how to best remedy the situation.

The union for the police officers also has filed a grievance. The union, led by Dan Baase as president and Robert Wagner as vice president, said the pay reduction in the paychecks from June 16 violated a new labor contract that started June 1. Officers had their pay cut about 60 cents an hour in that pay period.

Baase filed the grievance on June 17 and sought that the pay rate be based on 2,080 hours in a year, which he said had been in place since July 2016. The grievance seeks to have officers made whole for “any losses incurred because of the employer’s unilateral change in the method of calculation.”

Javier, in an interview on Sunday, said the overpayments are a bad situation for everyone. But he said the village will need to be paid back despite it being the village’s error.

“We can’t just ignore it,” he said. “We have to do right by the taxpayers.”

Javier started as mayor on April 4 and right away the Village Board needed to get to work and complete the village’s budget by April 30 for the 2022-23 fiscal year. During that budget process Javier said he wanted to know how all village employee salaries were calculated.

The village’s deputy treasurer at the time told Javier she believed the village had been overpaying officers because the hourly pay rates weren’t changed when the village implemented the new shift schedule in 2017.

Javier requested an independent analysis be done in April and retained The Bonadio Group. Bonadio studied the village pay records and found the pay rates in the system were not adjusted in accordance with the 84-hour pay period, leading to incorrect hourly rates and overpayments.

The Bonadio Group went through the pay records for each officer since February 2017 and determined what the pay should have been at the correct hourly rates, and then subtracted that from the higher rate to determine the overpayment.

Javier said he is pushing to have the situation rectified. He has been joined by Trustee Joyce Riley in voting yes for officers to be paid at a lower rate, with the annual salaries divided by 2,184 hours instead of 2,080.

“The overpayment continues every single day,” he said. “I respect the good work done by all village employees, especially the ones that protect our community. However, I believe they should adhere to the terms of the contract they signed and should not be overpaid.”