The Board of Estimate and Taxation Budget Committee has clarified its vote on 2013-14 staffing levels for the Greenwich Police Department, a vote that two weeks ago set the stage for a standoff between the committee and First Selectman Peter Tesei, who's also the town's police commissioner.
At its meeting Tuesday night, the committee explained that what it thought it was approving at its Feb. 28 meeting—the reduction of 10 positions and $600,000 from the overtime budget—was not the case, said committee Chairman Joseph Pellegrino. It turns out the vote was actually on keeping the 10 posts in the department's table of organization with an authorized strength of 155 officers, and transferring the $600,000 into a fixed fund account.
At the time, the committee said it wanted Police Chief James Heavey to return to them requesting additional funding whenever he wanted to hire a new officer—a move Heavey said would hamstring the department in trying to hire officers and place them in the state police academy. The argument, the committee presented, was that the department has historically not operated at full strength and didn't necessarily need to budget for all of the officers.
That decision lead to Tesei accusing the BET with micromanaging the department. Heavey wrote an open letter to residents saying the reductions—which need full board approval, caused him to "fear that once these positions are removed from the Table of Organization they will never be returned and that the level of police service will be unavoidably reduced."
Pellegrino said Tuesday night, "Since the action of budget committee, we have been able to have discussions at length with the chief and came to appreciate his position that by moving the $600,000 in fixed charges he feels the money is not in his budget."
Now the committee, Pellegrino said, "Would move the $600,000 into overtime, the net of which is actually $465,000 that would be subject to conditions. That does give the chief the same budget he feels he needs and come July 1 he can continue to manage the department the way he believes he needs."
In order to spend that $465,000 on overtime to pay officers covering for the vacant positions, Heavey will need to make an appropriation request to the board.
The committee also voted to require quarterly reports from Heavey on the department's recruiting and hiring efforts to fill the vacancies.
'If this is acceptable to you, it would be helpful if you put on the record," Pellegrino said. Heavey nodded affirmatively.
thus apparently calming the standoff between the committee and Tesei and Heavey.