City, police union divided on overtime pay

The back of a police officer.

The Pittsburgh police union is jumping back in the ring with the city — this time, over pay rates for suspended officers.

Mayor Bill Peduto officially called for an end to overtime pay for suspended officers Thursday, putting him at odds with the Pittsburgh Fraternal Order of Police [FOP], which claims the city is violating a 2014 agreement.

Assistant City Solicitor Wendy Kobee said in a press release Friday that the FOP’s threat to file a grievance and unfair labor practice charge is baseless.

"The city has the authority to set city policy on not paying unearned overtime to officers on paid leave pending resolution of disciplinary action,” Kobee said. “The reactions by the FOP are outrageous and not based in law.”

The city’s release also directly mentions former Pittsburgh police Sgt. Stephen Matakovich, who has faced charges for punching a man during the WPIAL high school football championships outside of Heinz Field in November.

District Judge Robert Ravenstahl dropped the charges against Matakovich earlier this month.

Matakovich, who has been suspended since December, was earning his base pay as an officer, plus overtime money.

The FOP said the overtime pay is justified by a 2014 agreement with the city that allows officers who are suspended more than 30 days to begin receiving the same amount of money — including overtime — they made in last year’s pay period.

From January to November 2015, right before the incident at Heinz, Matakovich earned more than $162,000, making him the fifth highest-paid employee in the city of Pittsburgh at the time. In that time period, Matakovich made about $88,600 in premium pay in addition to his base pay of nearly $74,000.

Sgt. Jim Glick, vice president of the police union, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that three suspended officers are receiving base pay and premium pay (a combination of overtime and other pay above the normal rate) because of this agreement.

Kobee disputes both the police union’s timeline and understanding of who is covered under previous arrangements between the city and the FOP.

According to the release, the decision to grant overtime pay to suspended officers was decided on in 2010, before Peduto took office.

In 2013, the city settled “multiple grievances” by negotiating an agreement with the union, which was referenced in an “unrelated minor grievance settlement” in January 2014.

“This is what the FOP keeps showing the media,” Kobee said. “I did not sign a sidebar agreement that relates to Officer Matakovich in January 2014.”

In January, PublicSource reported on the city’s excessive overtime pay for public safety employees. In addition to overtime, police officers can also earn extra pay through the Secondary Employment Trust Fund.

Establishments like bars, where officers might work on their off days, pay the city through the Trust Fund, separate from the public safety budget.  

“I don't know how they accurately forecast what our premium pay would be if they comingle secondary employment with actual city overtime,” FOP President Howard McQuillan told PublicSource.

Kobee accused the police union of taking advantage of special exceptions to rules made in the past.

“The FOP seems to be distorting the truth, or, worse, perpetrating an injustice on the bargaining process, our law abiding officers, and residents of this city,” Kobee said.

Reach PublicSource intern Elizabeth Lepro at elepro@publicsource.org and follow her on Twitter @LeproLiz.