Council mulls police pay

MABTON - At the request of Mabton City Councilman Mario Martinez, council members last night, Tuesday, reviewed an ordinance passed late last year setting wages for the year 2008.

While Martinez was absent last night, councilwoman Oping Hutson had questions regarding the police chief's pay.

Hutson discussed two memos: one written in January and one written in July.

The mayor's memo from January declared that police chief Robert Perales would work full time and get an increase in pay from $1,875 per month to $2,550 because an officer was injured and there was a staffing shortage.

The second memo, issued in July by the mayor, declared that Perales was needed at full time due to staffing shortages and his pay would increase from $1,875 to $4,000.

Police Chief Robert Perales interjected that in January, he only worked full time for one week, while mayor Velva Herrera added that it was temporary.

City Attorney Jack Maxwell said the ordinance setting pay needs to be changed "because the auditors are going to nail you on that."

He added, "If you're going to up it, it needs to be upped by ordinance."

In terms of the July memo, Herrera said Perales's increase in pay and hours is only while a student resource officer is out on medical leave, which could be up to six months.

Herrera noted that the city once shared the chief with Granger and had budgeted $500 to that city for goods and services associated with the sharing. She said Mabton has not paid Granger this year. "It was budgeted and it's sitting there, so I figured why not use it," she said of the money.

At this point, councilman Angel Reyna asked how long it will be before the city has to pay into Perales's retirement. Staff had no clear answer. "We need a definite time frame (for how long Perales will work full time) because of benefit status," Reyna said. "We have to be fiscally responsible to the citizens."

Perales said, "I believe it's six months before (you have to pay into retirement)." Hutson then directed city clerk Kitty Zavala to find out.

Perales then emphasized that the city is currently saving money because the student resource officer is being paid by Labor and Industries, but the school district is still paying a wage for coverage in the district, which Perales is currently handling.

Perales than broached another subject. According to the previously mentioned ordinance, the wages of one police officer are incorrect because that officer went to academy this year, graduated in May and received a pay increase.

The officer also received special training just this month in evidence handling. Because of that, Perales asked the officer's wages be raised again effective Oct. 1, that would cost the city slightly more than $600 if the officer received it until the end of the year.

Mabton police officers, and Perales himself, have voted for union representation.

Because of that, Maxwell said, "That sounds like a union (matter)." Perales responded that it doesn't have to be, that council can approve the pay increase without union negotiations.

Reyna said he was uncomfortable doing so and that he didn't want to set a precedent where salaries were discussed outside of union negotiations.

Maxwell added, "Once you're under contract with a union, it's negotiable through the union. It shouldn't be messed with."

Reyna also noted that the city's finances are not up to date. The books have only been completed up to April 2008. "We still have no idea where we're at financially."

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