Ocean Ridge: Bonus policy occupies commission again

By Margie Plunkett

The recent retirement of Ocean Ridge police officers Doc Darville and Dan Tinfina renewed a debate among commissioners in November that was reliably divisive: What, if anything, will the longtime employees be given for their departure?
    Commissioners lined up behind two basic concepts: the town’s traditional retirement bonus for longtime employees of $100 for each year employed; and a noncash symbolic gift to be determined — whether a watch, plaque or other token.
    In the end, they put off their decision until December until town attorney Ken Spillias finalizes the policy that will ultimately guide them for bonuses for retirements and holidays. But not before rolling through the same discussion they’ve had with other recent retirements and defeating a motion to give a symbolic gift.
    The complicated debate started with caution about using the words gift or bonus. In addition, the officers have retired from a police force that has entered collective bargaining. And last but not least, commissioners voice a straight out difference of opinion.
    Mayor Ken Kaleel kicked off this month’s debate with, “Someone who works for us for 20-plus years — I don’t mind giving them $100 a year.” Darville, a 20-year veteran, would be given $2,000 under that plan, for instance.
    The mayor’s view was quickly followed by the opposing view: “I absolutely think we have to recognize them. I think it should be a symbolic gift,” said Zoanne Hennigan, whose later motion to spend $500 on a token was defeated.
    While Commissioner Ed Brookes sided with Hennigan, Commissioners Geoff Pugh and Lynn Allison supported the mayor’s point of view.
    After the mayor noted that he was embarrassed that the town could not reward employees because it had no policy, Allison pointed out that the $100-per-year bonus has been an informal policy and should now be written up.
 Allison also added that if you asked the employees whether they’d rather have a symbolic gift or cash, they’d choose the money.
    “Someone who works for the town that long deserves something besides a plaque,” Kaleel said, adding, he thinks 20 years should be the cutoff for the bonus.
    Spillias, who said that bonuses are allowed as long as the criteria — such as length of service — are specified, will return with the policy at the December meeting.
It would include provisions for year-end bonuses, retirement bonuses for employment in excess of 20 years and bonuses for extraordinary service.      Ú

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