Bloomington mayor gets in last word on city council’s resolution about police pay

Despite opposition from mayor John Hamilton’s administration, on Sept. 8, Bloomington’s city council approved a resolution supporting $5,000 more in base pay for police officers.

A “resolved” clause in Res 21-27 says in part that the city council “expresses its support for an increase to salaries for all sworn officers of the Bloomington Police Department by $5,000 and requests that the Mayor and city bargaining team pursue appropriate action to modify the collective bargaining agreement accordingly…”

One of the administration’s objections to the resolution was concern that it could interfere with the collective bargaining process with the police union, which is established under Bloomington city code.

Under Indiana state law, the mayor has to either approve or veto all ordinances or resolutions passed by the city council.

In the case of Res 21-27, which the council approved on Sept. 8 on a 7–1–1 vote, Hamilton signed off on it—that is, he didn’t veto the resolution.

But Hamilton did get in a last word of sorts. There’s an asterisk next to his signature that footnotes a comment from Hamilton:

I sign this document only to affirm that it declares the Common Council’s support for certain matters. There are several factual statements in the WHEREAS clauses that are not accurate, including in the third clause.

The third clause states “[A]lthough Bloomington is the 7th most populous city in Indiana, the base salary of officers of the Bloomington Police Department (BPD) ranks 68th in the state…”

On the night of Sept. 8, city attorney Mike Rouker raised the administration’s objections to the use of the data in the certified salary lists for the state pension fund as a measure of “salary,” because the figures don’t reflect the current levels of actual compensation for officers.

Based on a response from the mayor’s office to questions from The B Square, another “whereas” clause the mayor analyzed as “not accurate” was the fourth one: “[A] 2019 Organizational Assessment of the BPD conducted at the request of the City of Bloomington by the Novak Consulting Group prescribed increasing sworn officers to 121…”

The Novak report does include a shift assignment scenario that entails 16 more officers, which when added to the 105 currently authorized number comes to 121.  It’s one of a few different shift assignment scenarios, and it does not appear that the Novak report singles out that one as necessarily preferable to the others.

In the final 2022 budget submitted by Hamilton to the city council late last week, there’s $1,000 in retention pay per quarter, from now through 2022. The retention pay could be analyzed as a kind of response to the council’s resolution. The retention pay would not count towards pension fund contributions.

The B Square reviewed the 155 resolutions signed by Hamilton since he took office in 2016. When Hamilton signed the police pay resolution on Sept. 16, 2021, it was the  second time that he had used an asterisk with a footnoted message on a resolution, to put distance between himself and the content of the resolution.

The first occasion came on Dec. 27, 2018. The resolution in question established the council’s preference that the 4th Street parking garage be repaired, not demolished and rebuilt.

A majority on the council eventually came around to the mayor’s position on the parking garage, and by late August this year, its reconstruction was complete enough to allow cars to start parking there.

Hamilton has vetoed one piece of legislation since he took office in 2016—the 2016 ordinance that established the parking commission. Under state law, if the mayor exercises the veto power, it must include a statement of the reason. So the mayor’s veto, which was overridden on a 9–0 vote of the council, included a veto statement.

Why didn’t Hamilton veto the resolution on police pay, to allow for the opportunity to lay out in detail his objections to the “whereas” clauses?

According to a statement from the mayor’s office, “Since the resolution is an ‘expression of support’ by the council and not a binding action, it is not appropriate for the mayor to reject it—the council may of course express support as it sees fit.”

The resolution on police pay helped set the stage for the presentation of the final 2022 budget.

The city council will get a first reading of all the 2022 budget ordinances on Wednesday, Sept. 29. A committee-of-the-whole meeting is set to follow the first readings, when the councilmembers could give some indication of their inclination to support the budget.

question-and-answer document included in the Sept.  29 meeting information packet is also a place to pick up clues on councilmember attitudes towards the 2022 budget.

The public hearing for the budget is set for Oct. 13, which is also the occasion when the council could take a vote to enact the 2022 budget.

One thought on “Bloomington mayor gets in last word on city council’s resolution about police pay

  1. I thought I saw a report that said a city the size of Bloomington should have 135 police officers. We have about 100, and are going to add an area that increases the size of Bloomington considerably. I assume no police protection for these areas with an already stretched police department, just higher taxes, and not allowed to vote in city election for 5 years. Taxation without representation.

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