Police officers have put Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis on notice they intend to sue the city for $85,000 in back wages and for a mandate to implement a restructuring to ease pay inequities within the department.
Lawyers for 11 officers sent a letter of intent to DePaulis. Notification is the first step in filing suit against the city.Officers with previous police experience were given a single pay grade promotion over rookies just out of the academy, with the condition that the rest of the class would catch up after two years, said police union President Dave Greer.
"At the end of the time period, (former) Chief (Bud) Willoughby refused to move them," Greer said Wednesday after the letter went out to DePaulis.
The fight has gone on since 1986, with the 13 officers losing $85,000 in base wages, said officer Mike Chard. The figure does not include overtime.
Chard has been a vocal proponent of implementing the pay increase promised to officers hired in July 1984. Thirteen cops are affected; 11 have agreed to sign the letter of intent.
"I've been everywhere," said Chard, who said he has ping-ponged from the offices of the chief, mayor, union, City Council, Utah Public Employees Association, Utah Peace Officers Association, federal Fair Labor and Standards and back again.
"Nobody wants to get involved," he said.
Officers hired at the same time as Chard who served with other departments before joining Salt Lake earn $2,132 a month. The 13 earn $1,965 a month.
The inequities are not apparent in pay scales for other classes before and after the July 1984 class, Chard said. The problem did not occur for officers hired before then, and the pay bumps were not included for officers who joined the department later on.
Officers hired 14 months later, for example, earn $1,932 a month. But Chard said those cops still receive the $50 a month clothing allowance while his class does not. The difference means the 13 officers "make $2 more a month and no allowance."
Chard and Greer estimate it would cost $27,000 to implement the pay bump for a single year to bring the officers up to scale. But both are concerned the mayor's office, now negotiating with the police and fire unions for cost-of-living increases, may use the costs of making good Willoughby's promise against them.
The mayor's office "will probably try to use it against us. And that's what we want to avoid," Chard said. "For the most part, there's a lot of support, even from the officers in our class" who are making more money.