ICMA

Question Remains as to When Tredyffrin Supervisors will Authorize the Hiring of 2 Budgeted Police Officers

The question for me at last night’s Board of Supervisors meeting was, “When will the township hire the budgeted police officers?”

The $49 K police operations study by ICMA (International City/County Management Association) police has fueled some ongoing debate.  Two of ICMA’s consultants, Leonard Matarese and Paul O’Connell, presented their final report to the supervisors and took their questions at last night’s Board of Supervisors meeting.  Their attendance at the meeting was the result of a less than satisfactory attempt at ‘skyping’ at the December supervisors meeting.

O’Connell detailed the consultant’s findings contained in the police department study, focusing on what ICMA determined was the required staffing requirements for Tredyffrin’s Police Department.  According to O’Connell, under existing Police Department shift arrangements, the following is ICMA’s recommendation for officers:

  • 34 patrol
  • 3 command
  • 1 community policing
  • 2 traffic
  • 3-6 detectives

The consulting report recommends 43-46 officers; a minimum of 43 officers required to maintain the existing level of safety of the community.  If you recall, Police Superintendent Tony Giaimo requested 47 officers at the December 3 BoS meeting and asked that the Board to consider reinstating 47 officers in the 2013 budget.  However, the supervisors approved the budget with 42 officers.

There are currently only 39 police officers (actually there are 40 officers listed on the roster but 1 officer is out on long-term disability) in Tredyffrin’s Police Department.  The supervisors approved the hiring of 2 officers in the 2013 budget so that would bring the officer count up to 42. Although 42 officers are still below the minimum required by ICMA’s study, and below Giaimo’s requested amount of 47 officers, it was my opinion that 42 officers would be a good start to re-staffing the Police Department.

The consultant’s took the opportunity last night to clarify their report, stating that Tredyffrin Township Police Department is “quite lean relative to other departments of this size”.  Supervisor DiBuonaventuro reminded the Board that three years ago, there were 51 officers in the Police Department and encouraged the reinstatement to 47 officers.   Taking the opposing view, Supervisor Heaberg’s approach was to recommend ‘less is more’, believing that a lower crime rate indicates a lesser police requirement.

There was discussion as to ways the Police Department could decrease costs beyond adjusting individual shift coverage, which is included in the collective bargaining agreement.  Supervisor Kichline mentioned that some municipalities are utilizing non-sworn employees for code enforcement, which would reduce costs. Enhanced penalties for chronic false alarm offenders was another way to reduce Police Department expense that was discussed.  The problem is that an officer cannot determine if it is a call is a false alarm until after investigating.

When the opportunity came for citizen questions, I asked the Board when they would authorize the hiring of the two officers included in the budget.  Remember, the addition of two officers still keeps the number in the Department below the minimum requirement contained in the ICMA report and below the number requested by Superintendent Giaimo.  Although the hiring of two officers is in the 2013 budget, there was not a definitive response as to when it might happen.

Kichline reiterated that the arbitration award had not favored the township and as a result, the Police Department expenses were greater.  Bill Martin, the township manager offered that the police health care plan is taking longer than expected to move to the new, less expensive plan. Citizens are asked to participate in a public meeting in March to further discussion the Police Department staffing.

Bottom line, there was no authorization from the supervisors to Superintendent Giaimo for the hiring of the two police officers.  And if last night’s Board of Supervisors meeting is any indication, I don’t expect that authorization to happen anytime soon.

When will Tredyffrin Township hire budgeted police officers?

When will Tredyffrin Township hire budgeted police officers?

Looking for answers, today I met with Tredyffrin Police Superintendent Tony Giaimo. I wanted to understand the search for and selection of police officers. As I explained to Giaimo, applicants for police department positions have contacted me over the last 6-8 months, anxious for a hiring update. I learned much about the police department hiring process and thought it worthwhile to share.

Early in 2012, the Tredyffrin Township Police Department advertised the April 14, 2012 physical assessment and written test date for vacancies in the department.  According to Giaimo, 130+ individuals applied to take the physical and written exam.  In addition to the application form, a physician statement and informed consent form were required.

The physical assessment is judged pass/fail; the written test included multiple-choice questions plus a written narrative.  If a candidate passed the physical exam and received an 80% or higher score on the written exam, they moved to the next step.  All candidates were notified of the test results 2-4 weeks following the April 14th exam.

Of the 130+ applicants, close to 100 individuals passed the physical test and scored 80% or higher on the written part. The next step for the successful applicants was an oral interview by an Oral Interview Board, composed of three police personnel selected by Giaimo. At the time of the interview, applicants were required to provide education transcripts, military discharge papers when applicable, and three reference letters (other than relative and employers). Failure to provide documents at the interview, disqualified applicants from the selection process.  The interviews were conducted between June and August 2012.

Each member of the Oral Interview Board independently scores the oral interviews and those scores are then added to the written exam score. For those applicants that advance to the next step, they receive a polygraph examination. According to Giaimo, the polygraph test is to indicate deception on a pre-determined set of questions.  After the polygraph phase, the top list of 15 candidates is prepared.  The ranking is based on all phases of the test process to this point.  For those 15 candidates, the next step is a background investigation by the Tredyffrin Township Police Department including previous employment, education record, military record, criminal history, credit rating, etc.

The next step is a conditional offer of employment.  Hiring is contingent upon successful completion of psychological and physical examinations and selection by the Police Superintendent. (I believe this part of the examination process takes approximately 4 months.) Once this conditional phase is completed, the cadet serves a two-year probationary period.

At the start, prospective applicants are told that the process takes approximately 6-8 months from the time the exam is taken – in this case, the exam was given on April 14 so if they successfully completed each step, vacancies were to be filled somewhere between October – December, 2012.

I received a call from a father of one of the cadets that is on Tredyffrin Police Department’s ‘short list’ in early January, looking for an update.  I assured him that the township would be hiring 2 police officers shortly.  I was confident giving this response for the following reasons, (1) the police contract was settled; (2) the ICMA consultant’s study (pg. 11) suggested a minimum of 2 additional officers were required to maintain township safety levels and (3) supervisors approved the 2013 budget that included 2 additional police officers (with the possibility of a third officer added sometime during the year).

The focus of my meeting with Superintendent Giaimo was to find out the hiring date of the two police officers.  Remember the cadets were told last April the application process would take approximately 6-8 months; it’s now 10 months!

I could not believe Giaimo’s response today re the hiring of police officers; telling me that he had not been authorized to hire.  What?  That’s right folks. The police contract was signed in December and the 2013 township budget approved (which included the hiring of the two officers) but the Board of Supervisors have not given Giaimo permission to hire the two officers.  Gosh, even pg. 11 of the ICMA police department study indicated the township needed to hire two officers to maintain satisfactory safety levels.

Giaimo assured me that he has the ranked list of candidates ready to go — all he needs is the OK from the BOS to make the offers. If you think that adequate staffing of our Police Department is an important issue, you may want to attend the next BOS meeting on February 11 and offer your opinion.

Kichline & Heaberg defend $49K Police Department study, but don’t address hiring additional police officers

Tredyffrin BOS Chair Michelle Kichline and Vice Chair Mike Heaberg have co-authored an editorial on the township police department with the stated purpose to offer facts, history and perspective. (Click here to read the op-ed).   Appearing in the Main Line Suburban, their response focuses on the recent police-township contract negotiations and the township’s $49K police consultant study. (On a personal note, I would like to thank the supervisors for appropriately using media for their op-ed rather than the township website.)

According to Kichline and Heaberg, the average wages per Tredyffrin Township police officer is $101K in 2013 with an additional $77K annually in healthcare, pension, life insurance benefits for officers and their spouses/dependents.  We know from reading the police contract that retired police officers receive healthcare benefits for life and this is reiterated in the article.  It is important for taxpayers to realize that the Police Department budget accounts for almost 50% of the township’s General Fund budget – for 2013, that cost is $8 million.

According to Kichline and Heaberg, the “BOS attempted to negotiate a termination of some benefits for new police hires only, but when the discussions did not progress, the decision was made to go to arbitration.”  Their explanation differs from the explanation given to me by representatives of the police department.  According to my sources, there was no negotiation but rather the arbitrator for the township took the police contract to arbitration after only one meeting.  After nearly a year, we learned in December that the independent arbitrator’s decision favored the police department.

Regardless if the BOS attempted to negotiate with the police prior to settlement, the township’s cost of arbitration was not included in Kichline and Heaberg’s editorial.  As I previously mentioned in an earlier post, the township paid $83K+ in arbitration costs.  ($14K+ for impartial arbitrator and $$69K for township arbitrators).  The total cost for the arbitration is probably closer to $100K as I only received Ballard Spahr billable hours through 8 October, 2012. (Click here for details)

In the op-ed, Kichline and Heaberg defend the $49K spent on the police department study. I am certain that their decision to depend the consulting contract is a direct result of the presentation (or rather the non-presentation) of the police operations study on December 2.  This was the BOS meeting where the consultant, Dr. Paul O’Connell of ICMA, was unable to attend the meeting and the idea was to ‘Skype” him in electronically from Connecticut.  The Skype attempt failed miserably with the audience and supervisors unable to understand a single word.  It was a hopeless exercise and no one could successfully question the consultant in regards to the police department study.

Apparently, at upcoming BOS meeting on February 11, two consultants from ICMA will be available (in person) to respond to questions concerning their study.  According to Kichline and Heaberg, ICMA “collected an entire years worth of data on each of more than 23,000 calls for service to our Police. This included type of call, time of day, day of week, response time, number of units responding, time on scene, etc. In addition, they collected staffing and schedule information. This allowed them to analyze the police workload, as compared to our police capacity.”

Obviously, supervisors Kichline and Heaberg are entitled to their personal assessment of ICMA’s consulting efforts of Tredyffrin Township’s Police Department.  However, for those that follow Community Matters, you will recall that because I had found ICMA’s presentation so unsettling, I conducted my research on the company.  I discovered that ICMA isn’t well loved in some municipalities, with some communities reporting that they overpaid for a cut and paste job rather than an accurate assessment of their fire or police departments.  (Click here for details).

There was one question that the supervisors and the residents wanted answered by ICMA’s consultant at the December BOS meeting, “What is the minimum staffing level of police officers required to maintain our quality of service” which seemed to escape a response from O’Connell.  In their editorial, Kichline and Heaberg write of their support for ICMA’s police department study yet Kichline commented at the December supervisors meeting that she had read ICMA’s report five times and was still confused as to the number of officers the consultants were recommending.

I am glad that Kichline and Heaberg are committed in their support of the police department, but disappointed that their offer of the “facts, history and perspective” does not address the hiring of additional police officers in Tredyffrin.  The 2013 budget included the hiring of two police officers with the possibility of the hire of a third officer during the year.  Although the recently settled police contract negotiations may not have turned out the way the supervisors wanted, it should not be used as a roadblock to hiring the additional officers.

Tredyffrin Pays $83K for Police Contract Arbitration, or … was it really $133K?

The Board of Supervisors and the School Board have their first meetings of the New Year this week.  As is often the case, Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors meeting conflicts with the TESD Board meeting. Scheduled for Monday night is both the Board of Supervisor’s organizational and regular meeting at the township building and the T/E School Board will hold a special school board meeting to consider the 2013-14 budget at the T/E Administration Building.  Unfortunately, both meetings are at the same time – 7:30 PM.

The Board of Supervisor’s organizational meeting includes the adoption of the meeting schedule for the various township boards and commissions, naming of emergency service providers, adoption of township fee schedule, legal and accounting reviews, etc.

One of the interesting aspects of the organizational meeting each year is the naming of the Chair and Vice Chair of the Board of Supervisors.  The seven Board members nominate and vote on these positions.  Historically, these positions go to the longest-serving members on the Board.  However, in 2012, that tradition shifted with the naming of Michelle Kichline as Chair. Kichline had only served 2 years as supervisor and neither as a Vice Chair, but received the unanimous support of her fellow board members for the chair position.  Having served longer than Kichline, many had expected John DiBuonaventuro to receive the 2012 nod for Chair but instead he served as Vice Chair. The Board of Supervisors saw their share of controversy in 2012, so it will be curious to see if Michelle receives another vote of confidence to continue as Chair and JD to continue as Vice Chair.

After the ceremonious organizational meeting, there is a regular supervisors meeting, including a Public Hearing to “consider and enact an ordinance of the Township of Tredyffrin, Chester County, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, fixing rates of taxation for the year 2013.”  We learned at the last BOS meeting in December that the township tax increase is set at 3.1%, down from the 5.5% originally forecast.

Since the December 17th supervisors meeting, we have learned of the Act 111 Arbitration Award issued for the collective bargaining agreement between the township and the police union. Much has been written about the agreement on Community Matters with many comments. If you are interested in details of the 4-year contract (2012-15), I would suggest you review posts from late December.  Once the arbitration award was announced, I submitted a right-to-know request for a complete accounting of the arbitration related expenses paid by the township.  It should be noted that this is the second police contract in a row that has gone directly to arbitration by the township.  In both instances, the impartial arbitrator came down on the side of the police union in regards to the post-retirement benefits. We know that retirement benefits , including pensions and healthcare, were major contributors to the long-standing debate between the two sides.

According to township manager Bill Martin, the arbitration costs to the township (taxpayers) re the police contract is as follows – Michael Zobrak, impartial arbitrator $14,136.46 and township arbitrators John McLaughlin, Patrick Harvey, Brian Pinheiro, etc. billed 273 hours for $69,337.50.  If my math is correct, the taxpayers paid $83,473.96 for the arbitration of the police contract.

Below are the details that Bill Martin sent for the township arbitrator costs.  John McLaughlin, Patrick Harvey and Brian Pinheiro are all partners in the Philadelphia law firm of Ballard Spahr.  The law firm billed the township 273 hours for a total of $69,337.50 which equates to $254/hr on the average.  On April 3, 2012 there are 100+ hours billed to the township under the name, ‘PFM’ — I am clueless as to what that means but I will contact the township manager for clarification.

I am struggling to understand these billable hours from Ballard Spahr.  It was my understanding that there was little (if any?) movement from the township’s initial position going into the arbitration process.  If that is the case, how is it that the total number of hours in 2012 (setting aside the hours from 2011) are so substantially higher than the total billable hours of  Michael Zobrak, the impartial arbitrator.

Something else I should point out is that on my right-to-know request in which I asked for ‘costs to date’ was dated January 1, 2013 and Martin’s response was dated January 4th. If you look at the last billing date from Ballard Spahr (below) it was back on Oct. 18, over 2 months prior to the signing of the arbitration agreement on December 23, 2012. It stands to reason that there are additional billable hours yet to be received from Ballard Spahr for those 2+ months, including the review of the arbitration award before its release.  I would maintain that the township has not seen the end of the costs — $83K may not be the entire costs.

TT Arbitrator Costs

I would suggest that we should also add the ICMA (International City/County Management Association) police department consulting fee of $49K to the total cost of the police contract negotiations.  Much of ICMA’s report was boilerplate language and their specific, cost-savings suggestions would require collective bargaining changes.  The way I see it, the township has already spent approximately $133K trying to lower police department expenses.  Based on the arbitration award, we know that the police department retained most of their prior contract benefits.

What bearing is the Act 111 arbitration award going to have on the township’s 2013 budget?  The supervisors and the finance director Tim Klarich did not have the benefit of a crystal ball in regards to the arbitration award when they calculated the 2013 budget. In addition, we still have the issue that there were 47 uniformed police in the 2012 township budget and the 2013 budget has the number reduced to 42.  The 42 uniformed police officers is two more officers than are currently in the department.  Now that the police contract is settled, will the supervisors OK the hiring of those two additional officers?

Question: How many police officers does it take to protect Tredyffrin Township residents?

The presentation (or rather the non-presentation) of the police operations study by ICMA (International City/County Management Association) consultant Dr. Paul O’Connell, at Monday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, was an embarrassment.  O’Connell, a college professor, was unable to attend the meeting; therefore, the plan was to “Skype” him in electronically from Connecticut.  The Skype attempt failed miserably, with the audience and supervisors unable to understand a single word from the professor.  Township staff attempted to correct the situation by connecting O’Connell via the phone line.  Although a slight improvement, we all still struggled to understand O’Connell.  Any questions from the Board or the citizens had to be transmitted via the phone.

I found the entire exercise last night a waste of time; certainly not worthy of a $49K consulting price tag.  However, I think I have it figured out – O’Connell didn’t need to attend the Board of Supervisors meeting.  In fact, I don’t think O’Connell or any of the other associated researchers at ICMA, needed to ever visit Tredyffrin Township.

Why?  If you read ICMA’s 92-page report, its length and its charts can impress you.  Don’t get me wrong, I think we are very fortunate to live in a community that has such a hard-working and caring police department But it struck me odd last night that O’Connell repeatedly spoke about the police superintendent (never once referring to Tony Giaimo by name) and the township’s police department being the ‘best in the country’.  On what basis, did O’Connell reach this conclusion?  A little research today indicates that O’Connell’s glowing words for Tredyffrin’s police officers are standard fare contained in ICMA’s police and fire department reports coast-to-coast.

Executive summary on Tredyffrin Township Police Department excerpt –

Based on our review, it is our opinion that the TTPD is a highly professional, well-managed police agency. Members of the department of all ranks and positions demonstrate a high degree of professionalism and dedication to the agency and the community.

A sampling from other ICMA police operations reports:

  • Executive Summary — report on Grand Rapids Police Department

Based on our review, it is our opinion that the GRPD is a highly professional, well-managed police agency. Members of the department of all ranks and positions demonstrate a high degree of professionalism and dedication to the agency and the community. The information management system developed and implemented in the department is beyond compare in contemporary law enforcement.

  • Executive Summary – report on Beaufort, South Carolina Police Department

ICMA found that the majority of sworn and civilian personnel of the Beaufort Police Department (BPD) are sincere, dedicated individuals who genuinely care about the community and the quality of life within it.

  • Executive Summary – report on Dunedin, Florida Police Department

After a comprehensive review of the services provided to the City of Dunedin by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, it is the unanimous opinion of the members of the reviewing team that the residents of the city are receiving outstanding law enforcement services from the Sheriff’s Office.

ICMA’s cut-and-paste approach to their consulting reports further continues into their recommendations. The continual #1 recommendation, seen in many of ICMA’s reports as a way to improve an already well-performing organization, was to change the current staffing model.   ICMA praised police departments across the country as “highly professional and well-managed”, and then adds, that with a tweak of the staffing schedule, police departments could magically decrease personnel.

From ICMA’s Wyoming, Michigan Police Department study, I read “… The WPD should change its current patrol-staffing model. Employing 10-hour tours in the current configuration is inefficient and should be abandoned in favor of a more flexible model that matches personnel resources to demand.” 

Sound familiar?

Whether it was California, Michigan, Florida or Pennsylvania, the ICMA charts, graphs, and recommendations all look eerily familiar.  It probably explains why O’Connell never referred to Giaimo by name, (calling him superintendent) and why he referred to the supervisors as commissioners.  O’Connell had his boilerplate speech down to a science and needed to keep his references generic.

A fire department official from Benton Harbor, Michigan is quoted in the article, ‘City Hired Fire Service Consultant ICMA Recommendations Challenged Across America’ saying, “The only thing they (ICMA) did was scratch off another municipality’s name and put Benton Harbor on it.”

ICMA isn’t well loved in some municipalities – in one city, Lake Havau in Arizona the consultants were roundly criticized by that City Council who felt they overpaid for a cut and paste job.  From the minutes, “Councilmember Callahan said that after thoroughly reviewing this ICMA report, he thought there were a lot of inconsistencies, and he believed the city overpaid for this report.  Councilmember Nyberg felt that ICMA merely copied the report form the City of Alameda, California for the Lake Havau City report, and she thought some of the information was inaccurate.” 

Some in Lake Havsu were concerned that ICMA may have used the report submitted to another city, changed some titles around and shifted some information, but used largely the same recommendations.

Something else that seemed disturbing as I followed ICMA’s paper trail, was an underlying anti-union message, referring to ICMA as “hired consultant a hired gun”. Mark Woolbright, International Association of Fire Fighters 2nd District vice president, issued a warning about ICMA’s motives, “It’s clear from everything we’ve heard from around the country that any municipality dealing with ICMA does so at their own risk. A consultant may be paid to provide a report to the local government to provide political cover for making cuts to fire department staffing and resources.”

Were it not for ICMA’s unsettling presentation at the supervisor’s meeting, I may not have done this research.  I am now convinced that the township, and specifically the Police Department, had better thoroughly review ICMA’s recommendations before instituting – and that includes the level of staffing requirements.

Was there an agenda behind the hiring of ICMA?  Was it to substantiate the police department staffing requirements for the 2013 budget?  Was it an honest attempt on the part of the supervisors to better understand the police operations and needs? 

The one question that the supervisors (and the residents) wanted answered – What is the minimum staffing level of police officers required to maintain our quality of service? A clear, concise response to this question seemed to escape O’Connell.  Even supervisor Michelle Kichline said that she read ICMA’s report five times and was still confused as to the number of officers!

Here’s what we do know – the township currently employs 41 uniformed police officers, and there is authorization for 47 officers (and funding) included in the 2012 township budget.  The ICMA report suggests 43 officers are needed to maintain acceptable service but the proposed 2013 township budget only includes 42 officers.  Police Superintendent Tony Giaimo asked the Board to increase the level from 42 to 47 officers to keep it at the same level as the 2012 budget. Kichline made it clear that there would no new-hires until the police contract was signed.  However, when will that be?  The independent arbitrator has had the Tredyffrin Township Police Association/Tredyffrin Township collective bargaining agreement for 11+ months.

The unsigned police contract is causing many unknowns in the township’s proposed 2013-budget.  With most police contract arbitrations taking 3-4 months for settlement in Pennsylvania, what’s the hold-up in Tredyffrin?  The answer may be simple – the township and the police union started the police contract negotiating process in extreme opposing positions.  By my count, there were 18 police officers in attendance at Monday’s Board of Supervisors meeting – about as many police as there were regular audience members.

The police union started the contract negotiation process from a status quo position, seeking a new contract with the township that contained benefits in their 2009-11 contract, including the post-retirement medical plan.  Faced with the $40M unfunded medical liability, the township’s position was the polar opposite.  It is my understanding that the township’s starting position in the police contract negotiation process was to eliminate post-retirement medical benefits for all new-hires.  I’m guessing the answer for the arbitrator must lie somewhere between these two positions.

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Since January 2012, the collective bargaining agreement between the township and the police union has been in arbitration.  An independent arbitrator, Michael Zobrak, is the third member of the arbitration board (jointly chosen by the township and the police union).  The other two members of the arbitration board represent the township and the police union, respectively.

In reading Pennsylvania Police & Firefighter Collective Bargaining Law, Act No. 111, there is no timeline indicated for a determination.

PA Act No. 111: An Act specifically authorizing collective bargaining between policemen and firemen and their public employers; providing for arbitration in order to settle disputes, and requiring compliance with collective bargaining agreements and findings of arbitrators.

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