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Statement from City Manager, Dr. Marie Peoples, regarding the article “Webster Firefighters’ Union Files Grievance Against City” published September 3, 2021 in the Webster-Kirkwood Times.
The City of Webster Groves was not contacted for this story or provided an opportunity to respond to the claims presented in the piece; this information would have been provided if asked.
The Webster Groves Firefighters Union has requested arbitration in response to the financial errors found in the fire department payroll. Upon determining there were financial errors spanning several fiscal years in the fire department payroll, the City Manager contracted with Rognan and Associates, an experienced accounting firm in fire department matters. Rognan and Associates provided a forensic financial analysis and accurate accounting of the payroll for every fire department staff member. It is important to note that the City has made these errors for many years prior to this date as part of operational practice and has not reprimanded or laid fault or blame at any current or former employee. As such, being a City error, no repayment of the overpayments has been sought. The recent WKT article presented the topic as only an overpayment issue and failed to include the fact that 21 Fire Department personnel were underpaid and the City will be issuing checks to those personnel.The core of the error lies in the computation of the hourly pay rate from the established annual salary. For many years, as a matter of practice, the whole cost of scheduled work hours of the fire service was not included in this computation, thereby allowing annual salaries to exceed the salary ranges established by the City Council ordinance. More information on how pay is calculated can be found here:
The article also notes that an additional grievance has been filed. We normally do not comment on singular personnel matters but this is a matter of pay which is a public record, in the spirit of transparency we feel obligated to respond, especially since the City was not invited to provide comment. City Personnel Policy 4.10 (C) provides Military Leave of Absence pay from the city not to exceed 120 hours in a fiscal year. In 2017, during a period of military leave, an employee was paid beyond the hours allowed within the policy. Upon the employees’ request to again pay beyond what the policy allows, the City Manager determined it would not be a prudent use of public taxpayers' money to grant additional paid leave beyond the stated policy allowance. The request, if granted, which would have equated to roughly $18,000 in an extra benefit. Every employee is valued, as is military service. As City Manager, I must consider the best good for the entire organization and what is an appropriate use of tax-payer funds. In this instance, the City policy that is in place for all employees was followed.
Arbitration is never desired but it is a natural part of the process. The City will participate and actively represent the taxpayers’ interest in an accurate application of compensation policy and the law.