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Pay raise problems resolved

Jeremy Lazarus | 8/4/2017, 7:51 a.m.
The salary snafu at City Hall has been resolved. Police officers and firefighters are to receive their delayed raises on ...

The salary snafu at City Hall has been resolved.

Police officers and firefighters are to receive their delayed raises on Friday, Aug. 11, when the next city paychecks are issued, according to Mayor Levar M. Stoney’s press secretary, Jim Nolan.

The raises will be retroactive to July 8, Mr. Nolan and other city officials said.

“The administration is now focused on what is important: Getting police and firefighters the raises the mayor proposed —and they deserve — as soon as possible,” Mr. Nolan stated Tuesday in making the disclosure in response to a Free Press query.

The issue arose last week when it came to light that the long-awaited raises — including step increases — would not be included in July 28 paychecks as expected.

The mayor first learned about the delay on July 25, his staff said.

The resolution approved by City Council authorizing the pay raises came faster than previously expected; the raises were not expected until the last paycheck in August.

However, the snafu appears to be another example of the problems that plague the administration and that were detailed in a performance review report that Mayor Stoney commissioned and released in May.

That report, which VCU’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs prepared, found that the city government, led by Chief Administrative Officer Selena Cuffee-Glenn, staggers under “excessive bureaucracy, excessive delays and sometimes poor leadership that has led to a system that is not as agile, responsive internally or externally or as skillful as it should be for Richmond to become the city it could be.”

Based on interviews and documents provided to the Free Press, the administration knew in early May about the need to calculate the exact dollars and cents required to provide raises for the estimated 1,000 police officers and firefighters who would qualify for the pay increases.

But the work apparently remained incomplete or incorrect as of July 26, according to one email.

It remains unclear whether the city Department of Human Resources had too few people to handle the work or if something else was missing. The emails do not provide answers, and the administration has declined to discuss the matter.

Mayor Stoney and City Council had made increasing pay for front-line public safety employees a top priority in the new 2017-18 budget that was approved in mid-May, with other employees’ pay needs put on hold to make it happen.

The mayor provided $2.3 million in his proposed budget to provide smaller pay raises particularly for veterans in both the police and fire departments, and council scrambled to cut spending in other parts of the budget to generate an additional $2.1 million to make the pay hikes more generous.

Initially, it seemed the administration was on track. On or after July 8, the Free Press has confirmed, police officers and firefighters were able to see via city computer how much the raise would impact their individual paycheck.

But the information was pulled back just a few days before the paychecks were to be issued and the raises were canceled to the dismay of both the mayor and council members.