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Police officer's promotion ruffles feathers in Kenneth City

KENNETH CITY — This town has a new police sergeant and is on its way to having its first organizational chart, but it took a union grievance and a council squabble over territory to get both done.

Both decisions were made during a special Town Council meeting Thursday, but the saga began last month when council member Allen Schopp decided police Cpl. Thomas Goldberg should be promoted. Schopp oversees the Kenneth City Police Department.

Schopp said he wanted to do something nice for Goldberg, whom he described as a "special officer" who oversees the town's emergency management and annexation programs in addition to his traditional police duties. As part of his annexation duties, Goldberg drafts the documents that the Town Council approves in order to annex. In other municipalities, the attorney does that work.

"He has saved the city a considerable amount of money because he does a lot of things the attorney would do," Schopp said. "He uses his own phone most of the time because it's a good phone" and does much work at home.

But Schopp said he "did not want to willy-nilly do this" so he approached police Chief Douglas Pasley, who agreed the idea was good.

The trouble was, the town's contract with the Fraternal Order of Police, the union that represents the officers, requires that such a promotion carries with it a 5 percent pay increase. That would boost Goldberg's annual salary from $58,729 to $61,665. Goldberg, 40, has worked for Kenneth City since 1992.

Schopp said he did not have the money in his departmental budget, so he asked Mayor Teresa Zemaitis, who is the town's chief financial officer, to find the money elsewhere. Zemaitis said the money was not available. She suggested that any promotions wait until the new fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

The Police Department, she said, accounts for $1.2 million or about 55 percent of the town's operating budget.

"We, as a Town Council, should always be mindful of the budget and oversee our departments in the most efficient and cost effective ways possible," Zemaitis said.

Pasley notified Goldberg in a Dec. 28 memo that he had been promoted to sergeant. The memo added, "However, until funds are available, you will not be monetarily compensated. This memo will serve as an understanding between you and the town of Kenneth City regarding this matter.

Both Pasley and Goldberg signed the memo.

The FOP filed a grievance, saying the memo violated its contract with the town.

Schopp said he did not know such agreements violated the contract. Schopp said at times, "the legalese does get a little thick."

Schopp said that since the promotion he has found the additional funds in his department's budget. An open position has not been filled and the money can be moved from there to Goldberg's paycheck, he said.

"I am not a CPA," Schopp said.

The council voted 4-1 to promote Goldberg and give him the raise. Town attorney John Elias said that should eliminate the union complaint.

The mayor also questioned the method Schopp used to promote Goldberg because it smacked of "favoritism" or "political ploys" rather than ability.

"This is not about Tom Goldberg," Zemaitis said. "This has nothing to do with any one person. This is structure. You can't promote to a job that doesn't exist."

She suggested the department needed an organizational chart to help guide such moves in the future. The council would have to approve the chart.

But Schopp resisted, saying, "It's my department. Why should the council approve who I or the chief (appoint)? Now you're telling me, 'Schopp, you can only have this.' "

Zemaitis said the chart would only show how many of each type position were supposed to be in the department. With Goldberg's promotion, the police department has one chief, three sergeants and two corporals. Those six positions account for 43 percent of the department's 14 sworn officers.

Schopp and the rest of the council agreed the Police Department would get an organizational chart as would all other departments in the city.

Reach Anne Lindberg at alindberg@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8450.

Police officer's promotion ruffles feathers in Kenneth City 01/08/11 [Last modified: Saturday, January 8, 2011 3:31am]

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