Almanac

News - February 26, 2014

Atherton police budget gets boost due to officer disability

by Renee Batti

Mounting overtime costs resulting from the number of officers out on disability, coupled with the expense of recruiting new officers, have led to a mid-year budgetary boost for the Atherton Police Department. And the ongoing building boom in town is making more spending in the building division necessary as well, although revenue generated by the robust level of activity more than covers those costs.

The City Council on Feb. 19 authorized giving the police department an additional $70,298 to cover costs of paying four officers full salaries while they're on disability leave and for the overtime pay needed to cover those positions.

Although all four council members present that night supported the change in the building services budget, Councilman Bill Widmer objected to the request for more police spending. He argued that the council had already authorized an amount equal to $80,000 for hiring two additional officers — positions yet to be filled — and that money could be applied to cost overruns.

City Manager George Rodericks, however, "advised that this funding is not to be used until such time as the positions are filled on a permanent basis," according to a staff report.

The council majority agreed, voting 3-1, with Jim Dobbie absent and Mr. Widmer dissenting, to approved the additional funding.

Police Chief Ed Flint told the Almanac later that although the two additional positions in his department have been approved and funded so that recruitment can occur, he has not been authorized to hire new officers until existing positions open up.

He added that one position held now by an officer on disability is likely to be vacant soon. Officers on disability receive full pay, and have up to one year before coming back to work or leaving the force, he said.

Building permit surge

The police services budgetary adjustment is small compared with that made for the town's building services, for which an additional $166,389 in spending was authorized in the same council vote. But the additional spending for building services is amply covered by higher-than-projected revenue from building permits, making the approval merely a pro forma action — moving the extra funds from the "revenue" column to the "expenditure" column.

The extra building division spending is a result of provisions in the town's agreement with its independent contractor that provides the building services. The contractor receives 58 percent of the first $1 million in revenue, and 55 percent for revenue over that amount. The current fiscal budget projected building revenues to be $1.23 million; it's now projected to be $1.53 million, requiring the town to pay more than expected to the contractor.

The revenue is generated by fees charged for a range of permits and code-required inspections of construction projects.

The staff report on the mid-year budget also provided welcome news about property tax revenue: Initially projected to be about $7.6 million in the current fiscal year, total property tax revenue is now estimated to come in at about $8.5 million by the end of June.

Comments

Posted by This can't be happening, a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 25, 2014 at 2:47 pm

Fully 25% of the police department out on full salary disability, causing overtime expenses that the troika of Cary Wiest, Elizabeth Lewis, and Rick Degolia is only too happy to authorize.

This is appalling.

Clearly the troika kept this quiet until after the parcel tax vote and until after they voted these cops a contract making them the highest paid cops in California.

There has been absolutely zero instances of violent police incidents in Atherton over the past year (or, in fact, ever). What is the chance that 25% of the force is out on legitimate disability vs. gaming the system?

And why isn't the town monitoring these excuses to separate legitimate disability claims from hoaxes.

In the not too recent past, an Atherton dispatcher, Anita Blick, committed workers compensation fraud based on similar tactics.


Posted by wondering, a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 26, 2014 at 7:30 pm

How did the Atherton officers suffer the disability - in the line of duty? Recap those stories for us so we can appropriately support these officers, instead of assuming they are goldbricking. Full disclosure is needed these days to avoid negative assumptions.


Posted by This can't be happening, a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 26, 2014 at 8:11 pm

I'm sure line of duty. One instance was a police car being rear ended. The question is did it result in an actual disability. I also understand they get to "disability retire" on a tax-free basis by claiming a disability.

Does a normal citizen take a year off with full pay when their car gets rear ended?


Posted by mud, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Feb 27, 2014 at 11:35 am

Now that the Almanac has moved its offices to Palo Alto, they are missing the view from their old Alameda de las Pulgas office across from the Starbuck's, where four to eight even ten disabled officers can be seen any evening around 4:45 nursing their wounds.


Posted by Seems wrong, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Feb 27, 2014 at 1:12 pm

25% of the whole dept seems really high.


Posted by talk about "mud"!!, a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Feb 27, 2014 at 7:41 pm

"where four to eight even ten disabled officers can be seen any evening around 4:45 nursing their wounds"

Yeah, right. Hyperbolize much? (yes, I stopped in tonight)

So funny how often someone may have a legitimate point or question, and then lose all credibility......


Posted by Mud, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Feb 27, 2014 at 11:59 pm

It's Ttrue. No Atherton Officers at Starbucks tonight. They read this blog.


Posted by talk about "mud"!!, a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Feb 28, 2014 at 2:29 am

Perfect accusations, have a perfect excuse when they don't prove out.


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