$30M settles police pay dispute
The City Council must OK the deal offered to union employees
Mayor Mufi Hannemann says a reported $30 million settlement is fair for the city and thousands of Honolulu police officers, firefighters and other union workers who alleged miscalculated overtime and other pay discrepancies.
When asked about the tentative settlement yesterday, Hannemann would only say that the final price tag was a fair deal. He would not disclose the amount of the settlement, but a source told the Star-Bulletin that it would total about $30 million.
"I think we did a terrific job coming to a settlement that I believe the Council will find, very satisfying," Hannemann said, "and the taxpayers because potentially, it could have been a huge hit to the city treasury."
Police union officials said attorneys for the plaintiffs sent out e-mails last week to about 3,000 city workers, about 1,900 of whom are police officers, about the settlement of the Fair Labor and Standards Act lawsuit. The e-mails let plaintiffs know they could call in to learn their share of the proposed settlement.
Police Chief Boisse Correa declined to comment because he has not seen the settlement.
The settlement proposal must still be approved by the City Council.
The lawsuit had originally asked for damages from $100 to $200 million, according to City Councilman Charles Djou, whose Executive Matters and Legal Affairs Committee will formally hear details about the settlement during its next meeting, March 15.
While Djou said the city does not have $30 million to spare, the settlement is better than taking the case to trial.
"It's a big hit for the taxpayers -- in the grand scheme of things I would rather not pay this amount," Djou said, "but if this did go to litigation, then potentially we could have paid hundreds of millions of dollars."
The City and County of Honolulu is the last of the four counties to settle the lawsuit, with Kauai, Maui and Hawaii counties coming to an agreement in December 2004. According to a Web site by the plaintiff's attorneys, all four counties failed to "properly calculate the rate of pay for overtime hours worked," according to federal fair labor standards.
By not using the correct formula to figure out employees' "regular rate of pay," the lawsuit states, the counties have been underpaying their employees.
Police union officials said overall, they are pleased with the tentative settlement, and estimated that about 450 members have already gone in to see the attorneys about how much they will be getting.
"These are all individual settlements so the union doesn't have to vote on anything to approve it," said Alex Garcia, Oahu chapter president of the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers. "It's a fair settlement ... absolutely, and it resolves a number of concerns raised by the officers and the city," Garcia said.
Garcia noted the reason Honolulu's settlement took longer than the other counties was that there were more employees involved.
"We're like the 12th-largest police department in the country," he said. "Those numbers make it more difficult to address immediately."