Hornberger Admin Killed Longstanding Pay “Parity” in Cops Contract, Deputies Barred from Sharing in 6% Mid-Year Windfall Given Favored Few

April 8, 2022


The Hornberger administration demanded removal of a longstanding provision of Cecil County Sheriff’s Deputies’ union contracts that assured cops of receiving equal pay boosts given to other county workers, while the administration was secretly drafting new payscales and a plan to boost pay for other workers by 6 percent, or double the Deputies’ contract pay raise this year, documents show.

As a result, Deputies represented by the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) lost their past pay protections and were frozen out of much higher pay hikes given recently to other, non-union county employees who do not risk their lives to protect citizens.

Meanwhile, the Cecil County Council got its first look at County Executive Danielle Hornberger’s proposed Fiscal 2023 budget at a 4/5/2022 worksession, and several Councilors challenged Hornberger’s proposal to convene a “Blue Ribbon Commission” to study police and emergency workers compensation and make recommendations for the future—but no hard cash even as the Sheriff’s Office faces crushing losses of deputies and corrections officers due to higher pay scales and bonuses offered by other area police agencies.

In addition, some council members and an independent consultant advising the County Council questioned the budget’s unusual format that hid the original, Council-approved Fiscal 2022 budget and instead made an apples/oranges comparison of the new budget to a “revised” current budget including $2.8 million in mid-year pay boosts to favored, non-union county employees. Deputies did not receive a penny in extra pay under that plan.

The new four-year FOP contract covering Sheriff’s deputies was ratified by the County Council on 10/5/2021, after it was formally introduced on 9/21/2021, and was retroactive to 7/1/2021 when the previous contract had expired. The pact provides a 3 percent Cost of Living (COLA) pay boost in the current Fiscal 2022 budget year, with 2 percent COLAs in the next two fiscal years and just a 1 percent COLA in its final Fiscal 2025 budget year.

But deputies would have been eligible for much larger boosts, up to 6 percent, if the pay “parity” clause of previous contracts had remained in force, according to documents obtained by Cecil Times. The previous three-year contract that expired last summer included a clause providing that “The County will provide the Union parity with other Cecil County employees (represented or unrepresented) [by unions] on economic terms and conditions.”

But county attorney Lawrence Scott, who conducted the negotiations with the FOP, demanded that clause be omitted from the new contract, according to police negotiators.

Michael Zack, a former president of the FOP Lodge 2 that represents deputies who was on the negotiating committee last year, as he has been for the past eight years, said that Scott insisted that the parity clause be deleted. “Usually, we build on past contracts when we negotiate a new one,” Zack said, noting that a parity clause had been included in previous contracts for many years. But this time, Scott insisted “ ‘we’re going to do away with that’ “ and there was no room for any compromise, Zack noted.

Deputies overwhelmingly voted down a contract proposal by Scott before returning to the bargaining table, Zack said. But the county had deputies over a barrel, with Scott threatening to withhold step raises that are normally provided on a deputy’s anniversary date of joining the force. Scott also insisted on a four-year contract, instead of the usual three-year pact.

The ink was barely dry on the FOP contract when Hornberger suddenly announced several weeks later in early November that she wanted to provide non-union county employees with up to 6 percent pay boosts, in the middle of the fiscal year. She began paying the raises even before she submitted authorizing legislation to the County Council, as required. The price tag also skyrocketed, from $1 million paid for from federal COVID relief aid in her November announcement to $2.8 million paid from “bond refinancing” proceeds by the time she submitted legislation to the Council on 3/1/2022.

But deputies were barred from the pay boosts and the deletion of the “parity” clause from their contract gave them no grounds on which to challenge their exclusion from the new pay windfall given to others.

But that didn’t stop Hornberger from falsely accusing Council members of “de-funding police” when they wanted more information and didn’t immediately go along with her plan in March, 2022—even though there wasn’t a penny for deputies in the proposal. And her administration had already conducted a massive overhaul of county employee payscales to give more basic pay boosts to employees of departments that report directly to her, all without notice to the Council before she began implementing them. [SEE previous CECIL TIMES report here: http://ceciltimes.com/2022/03/hornberger-disinformation-takes-over-cecil-county-website-to-smear-councilors-with-fake-de-funding-cops-claim-documents-show-to-co-exec-pals/ ]

Deputies feel they have been improperly thrust into a political scenario they never asked for and have had to play defense to combat false information about their pay, even as their ranks are being decimated by the comparatively low pay here in contrast with higher pay and bonuses offered by nearby police agencies.

“We don’t want this back-and-forth banter,” Fran Wallace, current president of FOP Lodge 2, told Cecil Times. But he said deputies feel “forced to respond…to this outside noise.”

Among the “noise” is a video posted on the county’s website and Facebook page by Hornberger claiming that deputies are being paid much more than they are in fact receiving. She claims that her budget provides adequate compensation for deputies and cites salary figures that “include overtime” but does not specify how much OT pay is baked into her calculations. Some deputies posting comments on social media say they would have to work 30 hours of overtime per pay period to come even close to her figures.

Wallace posted his own video response, speaking in restrained tones to challenge Hornberger’s pay claims and urging her to amend her budget proposal to provide appropriate pay for law enforcement. [ SEE the FOP response video here:
https://www.facebook.com/281841721889187/videos/498442058500748 ]

Hornberger’s budget calls for creation of a “Blue Ribbon” commission to study public safety employees compensation. At the Council’s first budget worksession this week, Hornberger spoke briefly and read from a text that mirrored her video, before walking out of the Council meeting room before her Finance director, James Appel, presented budget details and the Council had a chance to ask questions.

Councilor William Coutz (R-2) questioned how long the pay commission would take and “how many more” deputies would the county lose to other police agencies in the interim. “The Sheriff is walking on eggshells,” Coutz said, as he tries to provide services with a dwindling number of deputies and corrections officers. Coutz said that in the past few weeks the county lost five deputies, including several who left for higher pay in Baltimore County law enforcement.

“We’re at a critical mass,” Coutz said. “

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One Response to Hornberger Admin Killed Longstanding Pay “Parity” in Cops Contract, Deputies Barred from Sharing in 6% Mid-Year Windfall Given Favored Few

  1. Patricia DAnnunzio on April 11, 2022 at 8:45 am

    Sad that the Officers who put their life in danger every day they go to work to protect us. Give these officers a raise so that they can support their families while they are protecting all of us. God Bless the men and women in BLUE! ‍♀️‍♀️

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