Home Pension Issues Benavides right to freeze payouts to department chiefs

Benavides right to freeze payouts to department chiefs

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It’s a workplace fact that most, if not all, salaried employees are compensated differently than hourly employees. Salaried workers get paid more, generally, but they’re not compensated for overtime.

That is largely the rule in both the public and private sectors – but not in Lansing City Hall. There, 12 current department heads are due to get a combined $625,000 in “comp time” and accrued sick and vacation time. That’s what taxpayers would have to spend if all of those people left the city’s employ.

This practice has to stop; a fact now being acknowledged by Mayor Tony Benavides.

The mayor – with the City Council and a mayoral challenger breathing down his neck – told his department heads Monday that he was freezing those lucrative payouts. Good for Benavides. And good for the council and mayoral candidate state Sen. Virg Bernero, all of whom pressured the administration to halt the payouts.

It’s true that the 12 department heads – including Police Chief Mark Alley, Fire Chief Greg Martin and Parks and Recreation Director Murdock Jemerson – were promised the payouts, as laid out by the previous administration. But the payouts were set during relatively flush budget times. These days, the city has had to contend with large budget deficits. As City Council members have rightly noted, it’s hard to justify comp time payouts to department heads averaging more than $89,000 in annual salaries when they’re having to leave firefighting jobs vacant.

More important: The promises should never have been made. Michigan cities such as Grand Rapids and Flint don’t pay comp time to department heads. Lansing’s policy is an aberration – an expensive one.

From a political standpoint, Benavides was smart to defuse the payouts as a campaign issue. From a taxpayer and budget standpoint, halting the payouts is simply the right thing to do.

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