Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 26
 
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
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Borough Hall Sides With Police in Double Time Pay Dispute

Matthew Hersh

Siding with Borough Police administration in a grievance filed by one of its own patrol officers, Borough Hall restated its position last week, denying double time pay for the officer, who had agreed to take a standby shift.

The action was in response to a March 15, 2007 scenario where Borough Officer Sean Cahill took on the shift when another patrol squad officer, Officer William Perez, was scheduled to work eight consecutive 12-hour evening shifts. However, Mr. Cahill was paid only time-and-a-half for his being called into duty while on standby, rather than the double time that is usually offered for compensatory purposes (an officer essentially has to wait at home while on standby so as to be available if called in for duty). That arrangement is stipulated in the current contract between the Borough and the police union PBA Local #130, where "all patrol officers assigned to the 12-hour shift who are required to be on standby shall be granted 24 hours of compensatory time on an annual basis as reimbursement for standby."

But because Officer Cahill was not scheduled for standby, and only agreed to pick up the shift after his supervisor, Sgt. Kevin Creegan, suggested he work the shift for Officer Perez, he said last Tuesday that he felt he was owed double pay, particularly since he had been scheduled for firearms training that day, and had that shift rescheduled for March 20. The contention of the administration, however, was that Officer Cahill had not been the original standby member, and that he took the shift voluntarily.

Therein lay the disagreement.

Officer Cahill's grievance was heard by the Borough's Public Safety Committee, which sided with the determination of Borough Lt. Sharon Papp and Chief Anthony Federico that Officer Cahill's shift did not merit double pay per the union agreement.

The Public Safety Committee, which consists of four members of Borough Council, said in its May 18 correspondence with Officer Cahill, that double-time compensation does not apply to officers who have taken over a standby shift on their own, when another officer is called in for work.

But Officer Cahill claimed last week that he did not believe he took his shift voluntarily and "the decision made by the Public Safety Committee did not apply in this case." Appearing before members of Borough Council, he said the additional pay he has requested amounts to about $200.

According to files released by Borough Hall outlining a series of memos issued between ranking members of the Borough Police Department, Officer Cahill first took his complaint to Lt. Papp and Chief Federico before filing a formal grievance with the Borough's Public Safety Committee, which resulted in an "unsuccessful attempt" to "secure an equitable solution to this difference of opinion in interpretation."

"This basically is a scenario of interpretation of what's in the union agreement," said Borough administrator Robert Bruschi last week.

PBA Local #130 is currently in the final year of a three-year agreement with the Borough.

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