Below is a guest opinion column published by the New Mexico Sun entitled “Doesn’t matter if Edison ‘wasn’t exactly breaking the law,’ excessive overtime paid is a red flag for abuse of the system, mismanagement of resources” that was published on July 12:
HEADLINE: “Doesn’t matter if Edison ‘wasn’t exactly breaking the law,’ excessive overtime paid is a red flag for abuse of the system, mismanagement of resources”
By Pete Dinelli
Jul 12, 2022
It has been reported that APD Lieutenant Jim Edison who was fired in November 2021 for overtime pay abuse has been reinstated by the city pursuant to a settlement reached between Edison and the City. According to news reports over the course of one year Edison was paid $242,758 which consisted of a base pay and overtime pay.
An Internal Affairs investigation found that Lieutenant Edison was frequently claiming 2 hours or more of overtime for any task he did outside of work hours. He was terminated after it was found he had claimed more overtime hours than he had worked, that he lied to investigators and that he retaliated against the supervisor who initiated the investigation into his conduct.
Edison appealed his termination by APD alleging he did nothing wrong, that he was entitled to the overtime claimed and paid and he threatened a lawsuit. The major terms of the settlement agreement negotiated between Edison and the city include the following:
1. The city agreed to withdraw its decision to terminate Edison and to remove the discipline from his record.
2. Edison agreed to “self-demote” to the rank of sergeant or to patrol officer and undergo an audit of his previous pay records to determine whether he was overpaid.
3. Edison agreed to serve a 96-hour suspension
4. The city agreed to pay Edison’s his back pay since the date of his termination and agreed to pay Edison an additional $20,000.
5. The city will conduct an independent audit of Edison’s pay records from February 2020 through May 21, 2021, and “determine whether his claims for overtime were consistent with the law.” If the audit determines Edison was overpaid “the city will first confer with [him] and may thereafter pursue collection of overpaid amounts through appropriate judicial process.”
Chief Harold Medina said that Edison “wasn’t exactly breaking the law” when it came to his overtime claimed. Medina said Edison was taking advantage of the union collective bargaining contract. The collective bargaining agreement between the city and the police union includes patrol officers, detectives, sergeants and lieutenants. The police union contract provides that when officers are called into work outside of regular hours, they are guaranteed pay for a minimum of two hours at the rate of time and a half.
The New Mexico Public Employees Bargaining Act provides that public employee, such as police, other than management, may form, join or assist a labor organization for the purpose of collective bargaining. The APD police union contract provides that the Albuquerque Police Officers Association is the exclusive representative for regular full time, non-probationary police officers through the rank of Lieutenants, which means the union represents all patrol officers, detectives, sergeants and lieutenants. APD Sergeants and Lieutenants by their very definitions, duties and responsibilities are management positions, yet they are allowed to be part of the police union that represents them during union contract negotiation and in the settlement of grievances meaning personnel disciplinary actions.
Police officers earning excessive overtime is nothing new. It has been going on for years and is very common knowledge. During the last 10 years, the Albuquerque Police Department has consistently gone over its overtime budget by millions. From a personnel management standpoint, when you have a select few that are taking home the lion’s share of overtime, it causes moral problems with the rest. Excessive overtime paid is a red flag for abuse of the system, mismanagement of police resources or the lack of personnel.
APD Lieutenants and Sergeants need to be removed from the collective bargaining unit and made “at will employees” and paid yearly salaries and not hourly pay. This is essential from a management standpoint so that they can be held accountable for failure to act and failure to oversee those they are responsible for and not become part of the problem. There is a built-in conflict with lieutenants and sergeants being part of the union and being torn between management policies and procedures and union priorities that are a complete opposite to management priorities.
It must be city policy that APD Lieutenants and Sergeants are management positions and under state law are not permitted to join the union. The City needs to take steps to remove Lieutenants and Sergeants from the police bargaining unit and the union contract and make them “at will employees” in order to conform with state law and federal law. Otherwise, overtime pay abuse and gaming of the overtime system will continue as it has for years.
ABOUT THE NEW MEXICO SUN
The New Mexico Sun is part of the Sun Publishing group which is a nonprofit. The New Mexico Sun “mission statement” states in part:
“The New Mexico Sun was established to bring fresh light to issues that matter most to New Mexicans. It will cover the people, events, and wonders of our state. … The New Mexico Sun is non-partisan and fact-based, and we don’t maintain paywalls that lead to uneven information sharing. We don’t publish quotes from anonymous sources that lead to skepticism about our intentions, and we don’t bother our readers with annoying ads about products and services from non-locals that they will never buy. … Many New Mexico media outlets minimize or justify problematic issues based on the individuals involved or the power of their positions. Often reporters fail to ask hard questions, avoid making public officials uncomfortable, and then include only one side of a story. This approach doesn’t provide everything readers need to fully understand what is happening, why it matters, and how it will impact them or their families.”
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