No takers for Luzerne County detective retirement incentive

By Jennifer Learn-Andes - jandes@timesleader.com
Luzerne County Courthouse -

No Luzerne County detectives signed up for a special retirement incentive by the Aug. 31 deadline, according to an email Chief County Solicitor Romilda Crocamo sent to council members Tuesday.

At least one or two retirements were privately anticipated by the administration and officials because a union contract awarded through binding arbitration in November granted a more generous option to cash in unused sick days.

Under normal circumstances, detectives can cash in up to 60 unused sick days at $50 each when they retire.

The special incentive allowed detectives to receive their current rate of pay for up to 120 unused sick days — nearly six months — if they made an irrevocable decision by Aug. 31 to retire by the end of 2018.

The new contract also kept another incentive for detectives over age 55: continued health insurance coverage until Medicare kicks in. The county also maintains $50,000 in life insurance coverage for detectives after retirement, the contract says.

It’s unclear how many unused sick days have been accumulated by detectives.

Detectives hired before Jan. 1, 2012 — which applies to all nine currently employed under the county’s general fund operating budget — receive 18 sick days annually, records show. Those hired in the future would receive 10 days. A 10th newer detective position linked to the drug task force is covered by grant funding.

A detective union representative could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.

County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis, who oversees detectives, verified that she has not received any retirement notices but declined further comment, citing personnel confidentiality. She has repeatedly said detectives are crucial in crime investigations.

Compensation concerns

Several council members had expressed concerns about the detective compensation during last year’s budget discussions, with one noting some are receiving close to the $124,858 county Manager C. David Pedri is making in 2018 to oversee all of county government.

Council members will begin 2019 budget preparations in mid-October.

The base compensation of the nine detectives ranges from $68,144 to $108,369, with five receiving more than $100,000, records show.

The total compensation package for detectives was approximately $925,000 in 2017, not including health care or pension, the administration said.

The detective contract provides 2 percent increases in both 2019 and 2020, according to county records. It also retained a formula-based, length-of-service longevity bonus for current detectives, a 37.5-hour work week, a $1,050 annual clothing/equipment allowance and vacation leave ranging from 15 days for employees with five to 10 years of service to 30 days for workers with more than 20 years, the agreement says.

Detectives who decide to retire between now and Dec. 31, 2019 can be paid for up to 60 unused sick days at their current pay rate, under the contract.

Veteran union and non-union workers in other county departments have urged the administration to offer retirement incentives in recent years, but the administration has repeatedly rejected the suggestion due to the cost.

Past across-the-board incentives have been criticized for increasing county debt or causing taxpayer-funded pension subsidies to rise.

Luzerne County Courthouse
https://www.mydallaspost.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_luzcocourthouse01.jpgLuzerne County Courthouse

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

jandes@timesleader.com

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.