An open letter to the residents of Lisbon
As Chief of the Lisbon Police Department, I want you to know that I am proud of my officers and my department. They care about this town and those who live in it. They take their oath “to serve and protect” seriously.
For this reason, in 2019 I asked to meet with acting Mayor Gallo, village council and Fiscal Officer Tracey Wonner to discuss ways the village could generate more money. We were paying our officers so little that they were leaving Lisbon and taking better paying jobs on surrounding forces. In our meeting, we talked about ways to have the money to increase wages for our police. Many ideas were suggested and as a group we settled on a ½ percent increase to the village income tax.
The ½ percent would generate approximately $265,000 MORE per year than what the current 1 percent was generating. Seventy-five percent of that $265,000 was earmarked primarily for wages for the police. Residents put their faith and support behind us by voting to pass the new income tax rate believing that the raises promised would be given. For that, we are deeply appreciative. None of us suspected that those raises, generously supported by the residents, would become the proverbial “political football” that it has.
I want the voters to know that the officers are not getting the $23 /hour as proposed in the tax. The two-phased raise package that I proposed to Lisbon Council was going to cost approximately $100,000 and gave raises that would bring a patrolman hourly wage to $23 and with supplement increases for sergeant, lieutenant and chief. $100,000 is less than 50% of the $265,000 –not 75%.
In August 2021, after discussions and negotiations with the mayor and council and on the third reading of the Pay Roll Proposal, three council persons voted “no” (Jerry Cox, Tom Darcy and Dawn Thomas) and three voted “yes” (Jeff DeCort, Linda Donnalley and Susan Temple. In the Lisbon Village Ordinance, it is the mayor whose vote breaks the tie. Mayor Wilson voted “yes.” The “yes” vote was for the payroll ordinance produced by Linda Donnalley, Jeff DeCort and Susan Temple, not the one that I had produced for my department. Those three and the mayor voted to give the officers $22/hour.
Mayor Wilson’s “YES” vote to support lower wages for me and my full-time officers is a slap in my face and the face of my men and women. Lisbon residents have told me that they feel that it is a slap in the face of the democratic process as well since they voted for the income tax to provide us with specified pay increases. My department budget has more than enough money to pay my officers and me what was proposed and what the people of this village were promised when they passed the additional 1/2 percent income tax in 2019.
Wilson has stated that he thinks money is needed for more training and body cameras. I have pointed out that there has always been adequate money in the budget for training. We have never as a force complained that we were undertrained and in danger because of that. Nor have any complaints been filed by village residents that we are undertrained and not able to handle the situations that we face daily. I have also pointed out to the mayor and council that it is because my officers are well trained that other departments in the area try to recruit them. They don’t leave because of inadequate training. They leave because of inadequate pay.
As for body cameras, I want the public to know that I am not against body cameras. What good are body cameras if we don’t have the bodies to put them on? The mayor alleges we need cameras for our protection. Protection from charges of police brutality is the usual reason for using these devices. But here we have never had those charges leveled against us. Good police behavior, which I stress with my officers, is much less expensive than body cameras and the accompanying technology.
As I write this, I have a full complement of good officers and I’d like to keep them by paying a competitive wage. However, I had discussed with the mayor and council that we should wait until a state grant came out for the body cameras. As of this date, the state has announced that a grant is available. I will be applying for that grant. Furthermore, there is enough money in my budget for both pay raises and the cameras.
On the subject of raises and how much money is available for them, please take a look at the stand that Mayor Wilson and some of the council members have taken on increasing the wages of the parking attendant. After being advised by the fiscal officer that the parking fund will not sustain a pay increase for this position, the council and the mayor went ahead and approved a pay increase. Again, the vote was divided and the mayor broke the tie. How can three council members and the mayor ethically or morally vote to increase any wage when the fiscal officer has said bluntly that the money is NOT there?
There is another ethical issue involved in this situation as well. I think that when council members have a personal connection to an employee, they should abstain from voting on any issue –financial or other –that involves that employee. That was not done in the case of the parking attendant’s raise. For example, Councilwoman Thomas has often abstained from votes involving the Lisbon Fire Department because her husband was a fireman and her brother-in-law is now fire chief.
In closing, I feel that the opposition to our raises is directed personally at me because I proposed a $2.50 difference between each step on the scale. Example: the sergeant makes $2.50 more per hour than a patrolman; the lieutenant makes $2.50 more than the sergeant and I proposed that I make $6 more per hour than the lieutenant. This is in line with what the other salary-paid village administrators make above the employees that they supervise. These administrators make between $4-$6 more than the person below them. I manage 20 employees, whereas the other administrators manage three-to-four employees. In 2019, I made $7.14 more than the lieutenant. With my proposal of $6 I gave back $1.14 an hour. The mayor and three council members only gave me $2.50 more than the lieutenant.
Why should well-trained officers stay in Lisbon with very little hope of any significant reward for time and experience? You the voters understand this and passed the income tax increase to see that we would be paid on par with surrounding forces. We thank you for believing in us.