BY JIM DOOLEY
Although Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle wants all city workers to take a five per cent
pay cut, Police Chief Louis Kealoha and Fire Chief Kenneth Silva are seeking large personal pay raises.
Kealoha has asked the Honolulu Salary Commission for a 22 per cent pay bump that would raise his salary from $136,236 to $174,617.
Silva didn’t specify the size of the increase he is seeking but said it would parallel the police chief’s. Silva now receives the same compensation as Kealoha.
The requests from the two chiefs came in letters written last month to the Honolulu Salary Commission that were publicly posted this week on a City website.
Wednesday Carlisle said in his first budget message to the City Council that he wants city workers to accept across-the-board 5 per cent pay reductions.
Carlisle’s Managing Director, Douglas Chin, told the Salary Commission in written and oral testimony late last month that the mayor opposes pay increases for any city department head except the Medical Examiner.
Kealoha could not be reached for comment Friday. Fire Department spokesman Capt. Terry Seelig said the department “sends pretty much the same letter every year” to the Salary Commission.
“It’s just letting the commission know that this is an an issue in the department,” said Seelig.
Kealoha said in his Feb. 9 letter that anomalies in the police pay structure presently have him paid $8,000 less per year than the six assistant chiefs in HPD.
Kealoha’s two deputy chiefs, who outrank the assistant chiefs, are paid $14,376 per year less than their subordinates.
Salaries of HPD commanders below the deputy chief level are tied to pay schedules of rank and file officers in the police union. When the rank and file officers receive wage increases, so do the bosses, except for the chief and his two deputies. Their pay rates are set separately by the Salary Commission.
Police officers and commanders below the rank of deputy chief received 12 per cent pay increases over the last two years.
They were not subjected to the two unpaid furlough days per month requirement imposed on other city workers. Firefighters were also exempted from furloughs.
The resulting salary disparities have created an “untenable situation” in HPD, Kealoha said in his letter.
He asked the commission to set his deputy chiefs’ salaries at $158,743 – 10 per cent higher than the compensation of assistant chiefs.
And Kealoha asked that his pay be set at $174,617 – 10 per cent more than the deputies.
He and his deputies “are compensated at rates considerably lower than their Mainland counterparts with similar demographics,” Kealoha told the commission.
And the chief/deputy chief salaries are disproportionately low in comparison with Neighbor Island police executive pay, Kealoha said.
On Maui, the chief is paid $135,000 annually; $114,768 on the Big Island; and $107,335 on Kauai.
“Honolulu is the 12th largest city in the United States and the HPD ranks as the 18th largest department in the nation,” Kealoha told the Salary Commission.
San Francisco’s Police Department, which serves a population nearly the same size as Honolulu’s, pays its chief $292,630, according to Kealoha.
Managing Director Chin told the Salary Commission in his letter that the salary disparities cited by Kealoha occur in other departments.
“At present, 15 of the City’s major departments have civil service employees whose salaries exceed that of their department and deputy department head,” Chin wrote.
“We need our top administrators to lead by example in these challenging times and remember why we are here in the first place—to serve and advance the general welfare, health, happiness, safety and aspirations of the people of Honolulu,” Chin wrote.
“It is imperative that we unite together and do our part to achieve financial success for the City and County of Honolulu,” said Chin.
At the Fire Department, Chief Silva receives the same annual compensation as Kealoha — $136,236 – but eight of Silva’s subordinates are paid more, according to a Feb. 3 letter to the Salary Commission.
And 12 subordinates are paid more than Deputy Chief Rolland Harvest’s $129,936 salary, said the letter, signed by Harvest.
The letter noted that when Harvest was promoted to the number two job in HFD last year, he took a pay cut.
Harvest’s letter said he and Chief Silva “are cognizant of the economic hardship placed on the entire community and the difficulty in making decisions during these times.”
But the chief/deputy chiefs in the Police and Fire Departments have not received a pay raise in the past three years, while the salaries of subordinates have regularly risen, Harvest said.
“As a result, subordinates are compensated significantly more then their superiors,” Harvest wrote.
The disparity will grow wider because more pay raises are scheduled during the current fiscal year, the letter said.
Three assistant chiefs now are paid $147,768 and are due for raises this year that would bring their annual compensation to $160,144, according to figures supplied by Harvest.
Harvest’s letter said the Fire Chief and Deputy Chief are seeking personal pay raises commensurate with those sought by Kealoha.
While Carlisle opposes raises for the Police and Fire Chiefs, he is asking the Salary Commission to raise the Medical Examiner’s pay to $176,924. The job now pays $153,847 but has been vacant since November 2009.
“Our continuous recruitment efforts for this position have not yielded many well qualified candidates. Furthermore,comments received continue to indicate that our current salary rate is not sufficiently competitive to attract viable applicants,” Managing Director Douglas Chin told the Salary Commission.