When Police Chief Rob Davis retired from the force, his compensation package included almost $300,000 in unused sick leave. Earlier, when Fire Chief Darryl Von Raesfeld retired, he received $269,000 for the days he called in healthy. The figures are not that unusual. Unused sick leave payments for retirees will cost the city $14 million this year—more than double what it was five years ago—even as over 1,000 current city employees could lose their jobs due to budget cuts.
The problem dates back to 1992, when the police officers union agreed to give up on a raise in return for a sick leave buyout system. The original idea was the city’s, says Jim Unland, Vice President of the Police Officers Association. Yet even he cannot defend the $300,000 payout to former Police Chief Rob Davis. He simply followed the rules. With no cap in place and no limit to the amount of time that can be carried over from year to year, he accrued several salaries’ worth of sick leave in his 30 years on the force.
As SanJose.com noted on Tuesday, the city faces a tense few months ahead of it as it struggles to cover a $110 million deficit. It is likely that several hundred police officers will be laid off—a first in the city’s history—as a result of the inevitable cuts. A negotiating ploy from 20 years ago seems to have backfired in a big way. That may be one of the first things that city officials and union representatives address.