Saturday, February 6, 1999

State warned
overtime bill
bad for HPD

Officers' testimony helps kill
a House bill omitting overtime
pay from retirement perks

By Pat Omandam


Honolulu police Detective Ted L. Coons can't begin to count the family and social events he has missed because he was called to work for an emergency.

Legislature '99 For instance, as one of the police negotiators during the standoff Oct. 30 in Pacific Palisades, Coons said he had no choice but to work until the 22-hour standoff was resolved.

"I wish I had the luxury to reschedule the situations, but I don't," Coons said in testimony yesterday before the House Committee on Labor and Public Employment. "If you are a victim, then I will help you regardless of overtime."

At least 60 Honolulu police officers packed a committee room at the state Capitol yesterday in a show of force that helped defeat a House bill that eliminates overtime pay from the calculation of retirement benefits for government workers.

Committee Chairwoman Terry Nui Yoshinaga (D, Moiliili) recommended that the bill be held in committee, despite support from 30 House members who co-introduced the measure and testimony from state officials who favored it because it could save government $20 million a year in retirement payments.

House Bill 145, citing difficult economic times, says it was never the intention of the state Legislature to allow certain individuals who worked a lot of overtime hours to receive more retirement pay than their counterparts who didn't get as much overtime.

The measure would remove overtime from the retirement formula for employees as of June 30, 1999. All overtime worked before that date, however, would count in a person's retirement pay calculation.

While the bill was well intentioned, Yoshinaga said she was impressed with the arguments of Honolulu police, who warned HB 145 would not improve police morale.

Police officers testified it would only force many officers to retire and move to the Pacific Northwest, where local police departments have lured many Honolulu officers with better pay, benefits and a lower cost of living.

Maj. Gordon K.K. Young, head of the Honolulu Police Department's Finance Division, said there are more than 200 employees with 25 or more years of service in the department. Passing the bill would spur many to retire, leaving a void of experience while placing a greater strain on HPD's resources.

Young said the department already has 235 vacancies.

David Shimabukuro, administrator of the Employees' Retirement System, said a worker's average final compensation for retirement pay currently includes base pay, overtime, hazardous pay, differentials and other additional pay.

He said inclusion of overtime in the formula results in a higher retirement benefit for members and higher government payments to the retirement system.

Wayne J. Yamasaki, deputy executive director of the Hawaii Government Employees Association, said any perception that a small number of government employees receive a lot of overtime should be handled at the administrative level, rather than trying to pass a law affecting retirement benefits of all public employees.

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