Point Beach Police Lt. Robert Dikun earning $70,000 in overtime last year as part of his total annual pay of $195,386 is "an outrage," says Councilman Stephen Reid.
"It’s hard to believe that any one individual police officer would be entitled to $70,000 in overtime in the course of one year, especially when that amount far exceeds any other overtime received by any other police officer in our force, including Chief (Kevin) O’Hara," said Reid in an email on Monday afternoon.
"I along with the rest of the residents are outraged," he continued.
Dikun earned an annual base salary of $125,272, plus $61,428 in overtime and $8,786 in "compensatory pay," which is time and a half overtime pay in lieu of compensatory time, as allowed by police contracts, said Kathy Beno, Point Beach deputy finance officer, on Monday.
Police overtime will be monitored monthly and tracked more closely in light of Dikun earning $70,000 in overtime last year, said Councilman Bret Gordon, who became the council liaison to the police department after he was sworn into a council seat for the first time on Jan. 1.
The primary reasons for Dikun's overtime were Hurricane Irene, which cost the town about $25,000 in police overtime for the whole department, and the busy summer, Gordon said.
Overtime will be more closely tracked, within the context of the department trying to maintain adequate staffing levels with only 21 full-time officers, Gordon said.
When asked if there would have been any way to avoid the high overtime bill paid to Dikun, Gordon said, "Sure, if we didn't get the job completed. Every hour expended was done on behalf of the town. A lot of the overtime was due to his experience. We can't just give a lot of the jobs he does to a rookie cop."
The recent retirement of Sgt. Richard Otto means the department has only 21 officers, compared to the 22 it had operated with during the past year.
Reid, in his statement, took to task O'Hara, Dikun and Council members Kristine Tooker, who was police liaison last year, and Michael Corbally, who was on the council finance committee. Tooker could not be reached for comment on Monday night.
Reid, in his email, continued, "I am outraged on many levels. First, I had to learn about the overtime from a resident. As a councilman I should have been told about this sooner.
"Second, I find it hard to accept that a police officer from Point Beach made over $196,000," he said, which is slightly more than the figure of $195,386 supplied by Beno.
"That’s inexcusable especially when over $70,000 was made in overtime," Reid wrote. "There can be no justification for that amount of money.
"As a governing body, it is important that we give the police department the funds that it needs to keep our town safe," he continued. "But, it is also important that we ensure that tax dollars are spent wisely and are not used as a means to benefit one individual.
"Last year, our municipal employees sacrificed 17 days of salary as furlough days," Reid noted. "I simply cannot comprehend how our municipal employees could be forced to make that sacrifice while one individual police officer took home an additional $70,000 in overtime.
"We need to investigate this situation thoroughly so that we can provide answers to our taxpayers.
"Lt. Dikun’s time sheets need to be reviewed. Questions need to be asked, of Lt. Dikun, Chief O’Hara and last year’s police department liason, Councilwoman Tooker and Councilman Corbally who oversaw the budget.
"I am not trying to place the blame on any one individual. There’s plenty of blame to go around. Our system is supposed to have checks and balances in it. On this occasion the check and balances failed the taxpayer," Reid's statement concluded.
The issue of Dikun's pay is expected to be a hot one at tonight's Point Beach Council meeting at 6:30 p.m. at Borough Hall. (The meetings begin with closed sessions, with the public portion usually not beginning until 7:30 p.m. or afterwards.)
O'Hara and Dikun referred all questions to Gordon.
Gordon said he hopes the public takes the time to understand the reasons for Dikun's overtime.
"There was a public outcry for help with the antics on the boardwalk last summer," Gordon said. "They said they need some assistance, that they needed a lot of overtime. But that costs money.
"Lt. Dikun stepped up to the plate to help," Gordon said.
O'Hara, last fall, had said he had asked the council during the summer for $155,000 in additional funding for the police department.
In the summer, the council appropriated $95,000 of the $155,000 requested, mostly for overtime for police officers.
And in September, council allocated the remaining $60,000 requested to hire and train up to 50 more special police officers for next summer, O'Hara said.
The $155,000 will come out of the 2012 municipal budget, since it was not available in last year's budget.
Gordon said the police budget, as well as other facets of the municipal budget "need to be scrutinized. We need to make sure money is spent appropriately. This highlights that the police department is understaffed and they've been understaffed for a while.
"I've been talking to the chief on a routine basis about staffing and overtime," he said. "We'll scrutinize overtime on a monthly basis and hopefully you'll see those numbers come down in the next budget."
When asked if Otto, the retired sergeant, will be replaced, Gordon said, "That's a great question. That hasn't been resolved yet."