Waukesha’s city attorney said Monday city employees and outside
counsel agreed the city did not owe thousands of dollars to its
top two police officials, who sued over the claimed wages last
Police Chief Russell Jack and Deputy Chief Dennis
Angle are alleging they were given raises that amounted to less
than the 5 percent jump they said the city policies mandate once
someone is promoted.
seeking back pay of $28, 619 and a 4.03 percent annual raise;
Angle requests $14,708.12 in back pay and a 4.03 percent annual
$124,476 a year and Angle earns $110,140, according to city
figures supplied by Human Resources Manager Donna Whalen.
City Attorney Curt Meitz said the matter was thoroughly reviewed
by city staff and an outside lawyer before the Common Council
denied the claim in August. Meitz said he thought the dual
review was a good idea.
believe there is any contract, any promissory, and we’re going
to deny their allegations that are set forth therein,” Meitz
attorney for the plaintiffs, did not return repeated calls
seeking comment Monday.
A 1998 city
policy said employees who are promoted shall be paid at the
starting rate of their new position’s salary grade or be given a
5 percent increase, “whichever is higher,” the lawsuit said. It
was revised in 2007 to state employees shall receive at least a
5 percent increase in wages, subject to approval by the city
Jack earned a
1.9 percent raise upon promotion to lieutenant in 2000 and a 2
percent raise when he was promoted to captain in 2007. Angle
received a 2 percent raise when promoted to lieutenant in 2006.
shared by Meitz on Monday outline the city’s position on the
Administrator Ed Henschel wrote last Oct. 5 that former Deputy
Chief Wayne Dussault had told him it was the Police Department’s
practice to give employees raises that would put them in the
proper salary range, but not at levels exceeding those of other
employees already in similar positions. Therefore, the
department did not ask for more than 1.9 percent when Jack was
promoted to captain, and a memo setting that raise was shared
with Jack and he understood the reason for the requested amount,
that Jack’s promotion to chief in 2009 included a salary of a
set amount, not based on a percentage of any previous salary.
That salary was 15.8 percent above his wage as captain, and a
year later, Jack got a 5 percent raise, Henschel said.
But time is
also of the essence, Henschel said, and state law says any claim
against the city must be made within 120 days of the event
giving rise to it. Even if a “continuing” cause of action is
claimed by Jack, there is a six-year statute of limitations on
contract disputes, so anything prior to March of 2007 is barred
from litigation, Henschel said.
shared a memo from attorney Alan Levy, who last July gave a
report indicating his confidence that the city would succeed if
the matter went to litigation.
Dussault’s use of smaller raises to avoid problems with more
senior employees was first challenged in 2011 by Sgt. Chad
Pergande, who discovered he didn’t get a 5 percent raise when
promoted. An investigation showed at least seven other employees
had been similarly treated, and they were given raises as part
of the 2013 budget process.
Levy found “no
explanation why Chief Jack and Deputy Chief Angle did not say
anything about their own claims until after Mr. Pergande raised
Levy also said
the policy could be construed to mean a 5 percent raise is
delayed until an employee reaches “regular” status after some
time in the new job, and the policy does “not guarantee a
minimum payment as claimed.” He cited the state statute of
limitations as well.
Chief negotiated his specific salary with the City Administrator
pursuant to the City Council action which awarded him that
promotion (10/21/09 City Council minutes),” Levy wrote. “This
salary rate was an increase of 15.86% over his prior rate and
was the product of mutual agreement, not a unilateral imposition
of rules and policies. Therefore, his acceptance of that amount
may nullify and/or waive any claim the Chief may have.”