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Police endorsements to be released

Jared Felkins Director of Content • Dec 15, 2015 at 1:43 PM

Lebanon Lodge No. 83 Fraternal Order of Police President Cpl. Jerimy Pruitte said Monday a list of endorsements will be available Tuesday.

Pruitte said Monday the FOP’s list of candidates it will select to receive endorsements in the Nov. 6 Lebanon city election is going through a final round of scrutiny before it’s finalized and released to The Democrat on Tuesday.

“We are still working on it [Monday],” Pruitte said. “We will have it ready early Tuesday afternoon.”

The endorsements will be made based on candidate answers supplied to the FOP’s endorsement committee through a recent questionnaire, along with interviews. The questions included in the questionnaire ask whether the candidates would be supportive of plans to decrease the amount of time an officers would need to work before being eligible for retirement, pay restructuring and increases and enhancing the command structure of the police department.

In all, plans included in the questionnaire would increase city expenditures by more than $200,000 annually.

“We are asking the candidates if they would be open to such ideas,” said Pruitte has said. “We completely understand the city is in a financial crunch with the state and nation as well. This is a long-range plan. This is not a spur of the moment, we want it next year deal.”

Pruitte said all the candidates except for Jim Mills, who will face Billy Weeks and Robert Tick Bryan for the Ward 5 councilor seat, turned in questionnaires on time and met with the endorsement committee.

The seven-part questionnaire includes information and asks for support on a variety of topics, mostly concerning pay and benefits for FOP members.

The first question deals with an option offered by the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System that allows police officers to retire after 25 years of service. This option, backed by the FOP on its website at lebanonfop.org, would change the city’s current rule that allows all city employees to retire after 30 years of service with full benefits.

The estimated increased cost to the city, according to the questionnaire, would be 3.5 percent of an officer’s annual pay, which equates to about $115,000 to buy into the plan. Pruitte has said he did not know the costs associated with paying benefits for an additional five years for officers who chose the proposed option.

Pruitte has said it costs the city between $15,000-$20,000 to train a new officer. He said Lebanon has lost about 15 officers in the past eight years to other cities.

Pruitte has said officers haven’t received a pay increase in three years, which equates to $398.692.

The second question deals with disciplinary action concerning city department heads. According to the letter, Lebanon’s charter requires both the mayor and two-thirds of the council take disciplinary action against a department head.

“No city employee, except for department heads, has this much job protection, and we feel it is only fair that the rules are applied equally to them like everyone else [who] works for the city,” the letter said.

The questionnaire asks whether the candidate would actively support and vote for changing the charter to allow either the mayor or two-thirds of the council take disciplinary action against a department head.

Another question claims patrolmen have a disproportionate pay plan. According to the questionnaire, there is no longevity pay for patrolmen, but in 2007 there was a one-time pay increase for patrolmen serving five or more years.

“Since then, many patrolmen have exceeded five years of service but still continue to be paid less than those who got the one-time raise in 2007,” the letter said.

The questionnaire asks whether candidates would support patrolmen pay grades being restructured. This plan would be at a cost of nearly $26,000 annually to the city, according to the letter.

Still another question concerns disproportionate pay for supervisory officers compared to patrolmen. The questionnaire asks candidates if they would support a plan, which would be an added $12,305 annual cost for the city.

A third question dealing with pay concerns rates for dispatchers and supervisors the FOP claims is “not fair and competitive.” The questionnaire asks candidates whether they would support changing the pay scale for these employees at a cost of nearly $21,000 to the city.

Another question asks candidates whether they would support enhancing the command structure of the department. Through promotions, this plan would add an additional captain for a new division, sergeant for the detective division and two corporals for the traffic and flex units. The annual cost to the city would be about $19,000.

The final question asks candidates if they would ensure the FOP’s leadership would have a voice regarding decisions affecting the police department.

“From what I know now, the people of our lodge may not necessarily endorse someone who may not be for this plan,” Pruitte said. “We are looking for people who can move this city forward, not people who are just saying yes to our questions. We know this is going to be a financial thing we will have to explain to the council, the mayor and the taxpayers on what we are wanting.”

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