CRIDERSVILLE — In a room with a capacity of 38, approximately 60 village residents sat and stood shoulder-to-shoulder in the council chambers during a Cridersville Village Council Committee-of-the-Whole meeting Wednesday as councilors focused on overtime concerns of the village’s police chief.
A recent news article about overtime hours of area police chiefs caused the stir in this village of approximately 1,850 people, and the mayor along with councilors addressed this issue.
Cridersville Mayor Lorali Myers told those attending the meeting that she and councilors realize an issue exists and overtime in the village needs addressed.
“We have an opportunity here to make improvements and that is why we have come together,” Myers said. “We may have to open the pay package and discuss this and it could be an opportunity for discussion.”
She directed Councilor Eric West as Finance Committee chair to have his committee review overtime pay among village employees including Drake, including whether he should be paid hourly or salary.
West said every fall his Finance Committee comes together and reviews line-by-line the past year and the upcoming year’s village budget.
The Finance Committee chair noted when he was first elected to
council he was shocked at the amount of overtime but he noticed it decreasing each year — except for 2011.
Councilor Stacey Myers-Cook, who is a Finance Committee member, addressed the amount of overtime in all departments.
“The amount of overtime did take my breath away,” Myers Cook said. “When you see the money come out, you don’t see what goes into that.
“I started studying the issue more and more and there is a problem with overtime,” she said. “It is time that we take a look at this and keep a watchful eye on the budget.”
She researched the village’s wages and commented they didn’t fit in with other village of similar size to Cridersville.
“Salaries in other communities our size is not equivalent,” Myers Cook said. “It is stunning what I found out.”
Councilors, who earlier this year discussed switching Drake to salary, broached the subject again.
Drake could be switched to salary as opposed to hourly pay, but councilors noted they need to check the Department of Labor guidelines and seeing whether this would be an option.
Drake made one comment during the meeting and it was about salary pay.
“I’ve never refused to be on salary pay, and I was never asked to be on salary,” Drake said.
Councilor Tony Zuppardo, who criticized Drake and Myers in the April 15 article in The Lima News, sat quiet throughout most of Wednesday’s meeting.
But he did question why additional police officers were not hired to reduce the number of overtime hours.
He then discussed the police chief’s overtime each year and how long could the village continue to afford to pay the overtime before finances prohibit it.
Myers was irked by Zuppardo’s comment noting he had chances to bring this issue to council’s attention previously, which he said he did, but it had fallen on “deaf ears.” She also was irked by the news article in The Lima News.
“It was an article that was focused on the chief’s overtime,” Myers said. “I want to share that I am saddened of the photo taken of the chief. He is an outstanding man. It did not portray the man I know.”
Cridersville Police Chief John Drake, who has worked in the village of Cridersville for 19 years, worked a total of 777 hours of overtime in 2011.
The overtime hours grabbed the attention of local residents, who wanted to know more.
“This is an issue for our village,” Myers said. “Many of our residents have shared their concern on how people are viewing our village in a negative way. Cridersville is a great place to live.”
The mayor also wanted to make sure she understood what prompted the article. Since the article, Myers along with councilors received questions on overtime hours in the village.
Myers said that Drake understood that there was an issue with overtime, and she discussed this issue with him at the beginning of 2012.
“It is my understanding that this is not a new concept,” Myers said. “We’ve been paying overtime to the chief for years.”
Myers said she along with the council members have been aware of the overtime hours because they approve the monthly expenses.
She also wanted the residents to know why Drake had the amount of overtime hours for the village last year that he did.
“The police chief’s position is an hourly position,” Myers said. “He had an increase in his overtime for 2011 due to unforeseen reductions in our part-time police force, several hours of back-up assistance for our officers, some hours with the K-9 unit, hours needed before and after his patrol shift for administrative hours as well as his hours for the Grand Lake Task Force.”
At the beginning of 2011, approximately eight part-time officers were on the police force, but that number dwindled down to three part-time officers during the year.
“John and other staff had to pick up the time,” Myers told the Wapakoneta Daily News prior to the meeting. “We had higher turnover, which caused additional overtime.”
Along with the turnover, approximately 128 overtime hours were spent taking on shift maintenance, 161 overtime hours were used toward K-9 unit calls and 141 overtime hours were for back up assistance.
Drake’s duties on the Grand Lake Task Force, trick-or-treat evening and the Cridersville Jamboree were also part of his overtime hours last year.
“If he works over 40 hours a week, we have to pay him overtime,” Myers said, citing state law.
Of the citations Drake issued, 101 brought in revenue for the village. This revenue totaled $10,844, which all goes back into the general fund, which pays for the operation of the police department.
He and the K-9 also can bring money back into the village when drugs are confiscated during a traffic stop. The village is in line to receive money from stops made on Interstate 75 through the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
Others in the Cridersville Police Department received overtime pay in 2011, Sgt. Joshua Joseph had 339 hours of overtime and Lt. Bryan Creech had 125 hours of overtime.
Drake, Joseph and Creech were the only three full-time employees on the police force last year.
Myers said after her discussion with Drake at the beginning of the year concerning his overtime, they came up with opportunities to reduce not only his overtime, but all of the police officers’ overtime.
A few ideas that Myers mentioned were to have weekend officers cover 12-hour shifts, or potentially hiring more part-time officers.
“Unfortunately, police officers have overtime,” Myers said. “Yes we are working on the number of hours by looking at opportunities on shift coverage and adding part-time officers to our police force.”
After Myers talked with councilors, they determined that they know they have an issue, and they will discuss and make improvements on this issue.
Myers Cook along with Myers agreed that communication is key.
“Business had not been conducted around the table until after the article,” Myers said.
She also urged residents to call councilors when they have a concern.
“Call us. Come to a meeting. We have a Committee-of-the-Whole (meeting) to discuss issues,” Myers said. “Let’s have open communication. As leaders, that what we need to do.”