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Step-up pay adjustment for fill-in police chief put on hold

Last night the Sunnyside City Council considered and decided to wait before authorizing a temporary pay adjustment in the amount of more than $1,460 for Deputy Police Chief Phil Schenck.

The 5 percent "step-up pay" would compensate him for filling in during an absence of Police Chief Ed Radder, who was absent for medical reasons between June 6 and Nov. 8, 2011.

City Manager Mark Gervasi told the city council the city has allocated a 5 percent pay increase on a temporary basis in similar situations.

"There's a beginning and an end," he said, stating the pay allocation is only for the time during which Schenck served as top cop.

Councilman Jim Restucci expressed concerns as to whether or not such an allocation would be considered the gifting of funds, which is prohibited by law.

He and Councilwoman Theresa Hancock said the city has received audit findings in the past for approving temporary pay increases like the one being considered.

City Attorney Scott Beyer weighed in on the matter, stating Tony Menke, another attorney at Menke Jackson Beyer Ehlis & Harper, has reviewed the matter. Beyer said there are legal concerns regarding a retroactive pay increase without such an increase having been pre-authorized.

"Council could make a provision for individuals filling in for department heads," he said, stating such a provision should be included in contracts as a proactive measure.

Hancock said she believes the pay increase is warranted, but would like Gervasi to consult with the state auditor before council makes a final decision on the matter.

Councilman Jason Raines argued in favor of granting the deputy chief the pay increase last night.

"I believe Deputy Chief Schenck did a great job," he said.

Councilman Don Vlieger took a more cautious stance, backing up Hancock's statement that he, too, believed the state auditor should be consulted.

The Sunnyside City Council agreed 6-1 to hold off on a final decision regarding the temporary pay step-up until the Monday, Feb. 13, meeting.

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