Still suffering from sticker shock over high payouts to retiring police officers, the Baltimore County Council is expected to give grudging approval tonight to this year's unusually high $633,000 retirement tab.
It's the first time in years the council has had to transfer money to pay retirees for unused leave and compensatory time, and the amounts -- including $32,379 to a 38-year veteran patrolman -- clearly make some council members uncomfortable.
"This is a lot of money. Are we managing our resources properly?" asked Towson Republican Councilman Douglas B. Riley at a recent work session. A June 1 vote on the budget transfer was deferred until tonight's meeting.
Earlier, Council Chairman Stephen G. Sam Moxley, a Catonsville-Arbutus Democrat, said, "I am concerned about these large payouts."
There is little the council members can do but grumble, however.
BTC Robin L. Churchill, the county administrative officer, noted that the money already has been paid out under the county's labor contract with the police union and the transfer is required to balance the Police Department's books.
Although Police Chief Terrence B. Sheridan eliminated compensatory time this year for high-ranking, nonunion officers -- captains and higher -- changing those rules for union employees would be "a tough negotiation issue," Churchill said.
The police say the county -- and the taxpayers -- are getting a bargain.
Tracy Reed, the 38-year veteran whose check attracted the council's attention, said if he calculated every extra hour he worked over his career, "I'd have 10,000 hours." Instead, he settled for 1,435 hours of combined unused leave and compensatory time.
Reed is among the 24 people who received more than $10,000 this year, although the average payment among the 90 retiring police employees is $7,000.
Police officials say the payments are appropriate to make up for the unusual schedules and the vital nature of police work, which includes varied shifts, weekends and holidays.
The large sums first bedeviled county government a dozen years ago, when several high-ranking officials retired with payments as high as $43,000 for compensatory time.
Sheridan's subsequent ban on compensatory time for captains, majors and colonels wasn't popular with some of the high-ranking officers.
"Being a captain in the precincts is more than an eight-hour-a-day job," said just-retired former Towson precinct Capt. George Harvey, who is now police chief in Easton. "You're actually working 10-, 12-, 14-hour days," said Harvey, who got a $17,314 check.
While council members may flinch at the size of the payments for lower-ranking employees, the officers say the compensation is not generous enough.
"When I first came on, we worked six days a week," said Reed. "A lot of Christmases I missed with my kids. I missed a lot that my son did, and it's hard on the marriage, too. I figure that's what they're paying me for."
Pub Date: 6/15/98