Rilling weighs in on police promotion rumors; Kulhawik, Hamilton talk OT

Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik.
Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik.

NORWALK, Conn. – Mayor Harry Rilling addressed rumors Wednesday that he is planning to add “unnecessary” supervisory staff to the police department.

The mayor was responding to questions posed by NancyOnNorwalk as the time draws near for the mayor’s recommended budget, in conjunction with the Finance Department, to be submitted to the Common Council. The Board of Estimate and Taxation gets the first look Monday (Feb. 9), with the Council getting the presentation Tuesday night. To see the city operating budget review schedule, click here.

In January, Rilling talked about the possibility of promoting some police officers with the current exam list set to expire this month. He said then, and repeated Wednesday, that nothing is set in stone.

“I’m waiting for a recommendation” from Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik, Rilling said.

Rillng, who served as chief of police for 17 years, said that, when he took over as mayor, he asked Kulhawik to put together a “table of organization” that would help him run the department more efficiently and effectively.

“Captains have been essentially eliminated,” Rilling said. “… At one point we had 5 captains, one on every patrol shift.” Now, he said, the command structure is leaner than in the past.

“We had a captain and a lieutenant on every shift,” he said. “The captain was the commanding officer, and when the captain was off the lieutenant was the commanding officer. Then we had three sergeants on each shift. So, at one point, the department was extremely top heavy on every shift; now its very lean compared to what it used to be.”

Rilling said that, if promotions do occur, the spots vacated by those promoted would have to be filled “eventually.”

“I don’t know what the eventual numbers would be,” he said. “That’s why I’m waiting to get something back from the chief, to see exactly what his recommendations are – the structure he’s recommending.”

Kulhawik refused to share is thoughts on the subject.

“There has been a lot of rumors and speculation and it is not appropriate for me to comment on such,” he said.

Some commenters on NoN have expressed concern about the cost of the promotions to Norwalk taxpayers, including the possibility of increased overtime with fewer patrol officers on the street. Police overtime has been a sensitive subject, both in the general public and among city officials. An opinion piece by Common Councilman Bruce Kimmel (D-At Large) addressed the frustration caused a lack of understanding by some people on the Council about the OT situation.

According to Norwalk Finance Director Tom Hamilton, the current OT situation is confused by the recent contract agreement that is retroactive to 2013.

“The Police Department has spent $1,588,790 in overtime this fiscal year, including this week’s pay,” he said in a Wednesday email. “The department’s total approved overtime budget for FY 2014-15 is currently $1,930,174, so the department is not over budget at the present time.

“The police contract was just settled retroactive to July 1, 2013, so retroactive wages have been paid for FY 2013-14 and for FY 2014-15 year-to-date,” he wrote. “When regular wages increase, there is a ‘roll-up’ impact on a number of related expenses, including overtime, since overtime is paid at 1.5 times regular salary. With a recent retroactive contract settlement, it is not surprising that the police overtime would be running higher than budget on an annualized basis.”

Finance Department staff is working with the police to project total overtime spending through the end of the fiscal year, he said, so the Finance Department can propose a special appropriation from contingency to cover the general wage increase and other costs associated with the contract settlement.

Estimated labor contract settlement costs are built in to the contingency budget rather than the departmental budget, he said; hence, the need for the appropriation.

Hamilton said he expects the request to be made at the March meeting of the Board of Estimate and Taxation.

He also said that paying OT is cheaper than hiring more bodies because of the benefits.

“The cost of benefits for public safety employees is quite high,” Hamilton wrote. “While some changes have been made to the contract that will lower our benefit costs for new hires (including a new pension plan for new hires and less generous retiree health insurance provisions for new hires), benefit costs will still exceed 50 percent of base salary. Therefore, it is less expensive to cover staffing needs on an overtime basis at 1.5X pay, than to hire additional employees. The question about when it is more ‘effective’ to hire additional employees is more than a financial issue, so I would leave it to others to answer than question.”

Kulhawik agreed that it is cheaper to pay overtime than to add staff.

“Based upon my staffing study which I conducted this past year, it is much cheaper to use overtime to cover staffing to our minimums than to hire staff to cover all staffing at regular wages. … This is due to benefits and time off, etc.,” the chief said.

“One other issue that may confuse people is that we receive considerable reimbursements from both the state federal government for various programs and task force activity. These reimbursements often exceed the threshold that can be automatically transferred from the revenue account into overtime to reimburse the account, as we pay out the overtime in advance. As such, these transfers must often go before the BET and Council. They are really more administrative than anything else, but I know the way they appear on the agendas could confuse people into thinking we are asking for additional funds to cover shortages in overtime.”


8 responses to “Rilling weighs in on police promotion rumors; Kulhawik, Hamilton talk OT”

  1. Sassy

    The mayor said its up to the chief. The chief says no comment. That’s because it’s not up to the chief. The mayor is doing this.
    They never addressed the overtime that would be created with the vacancies left behind because of the created positions.
    They never addressed taking people out of needed divisions to try to stop the current overtime problem.
    Mr Hamilton says the police aren’t over budget? The city is 7 months into a 12 month year and the police have spent almost 1.6 million of a 1.9 million budget. My math shows they are going way over. The settling of a contract has nothing to do with the overtime budget.
    The city is blowing smoke up our you know whats!
    The mayor is forcing these promotions onto the police department so he can look like a hero to certain special interest groups and then get their support. Funny how these positions are suddenly needed come election year. Does having more supervisors to watch over less officers make sense to anybody?
    $300,000.00 per year in raises and overtime all so the mayor can look good. Demand that the mayor does not go forward with wasting our tax dollars!

  2. Oldtimer

    The fact that nobody will commit to what the plans may not be suggests that some new positions (promotions) are still on the horizon. A simple no would be easy, if it was true. Eliminating the rank of Captain may have been a mistake, but nobody will admit to that. Expect to see some new Lts.

  3. WOW just WOW

    Unfortunately the millions of dollars of police overtime that Hamilton mentions is not the full story.
    We the taxpayer are paying for additional millions of dollars of police overtime, that is hidden in City construction contracts . Let us not forget that we are the ones paying for these contracts, thus we are paying for the police overtime.

  4. Talk about not answering the question

    Lie would be a strong word to use referring to the mayors comments but you certainly didn’t get clear and honest answers. Except from the chief who said no comment that is.

    My close friend is a Norwalk cop. He said there haven’t been captains and lieutenants on the same shift for ten years or more. It is known throughout the department that these promotions are for one reason. To promote minorities. There are no vacant positions.

    Hamiltons twist on a contract settlement adding to an overtime budget is incorrect as well. Back pay has nothing to do with current overtime. And only having $350,000.00 of a $1,900,000.00 budget left to use over the next five months is over budget.

    These created positions to promote minorities is nothing more than election year games being played by the mayor. If these promotions were so necessary why didn’t the mayor fill the positions that don’t exist back when he was the chief only a few years ago? Wake up people, we are not getting the truth.

    Editor’s note: This comment, and an earlier attempt from the same poster under another name, were caught in our spam filter, hence the delay.

  5. You got lied to NoN

    The mayor dodged the questions, the chief said no comment, and the city finance officer gave incorrect information. Are you kidding me?

    Ask any cop and they will tell you that these promotions are for positions that don’t exist and are for one reason. To promote minorities. Problem is the cops may be scared to tell the truth.

    The cop I spoke with said the captain and lieutenant on one shift thing hasn’t been in existence for over ten years. So if these positions were so needed why didn’t the mayor fill them a few years ago while he was chief? The only difference between having a lieutenant and a sergeant is it will cost the taxpayers $10,000.00 more per year per lieutenant. The same amount of supervisors are working either way no matter what their title is. Don’t forget, they aren’t just promoting lieutenants. They are promoting sergeants to replace those who become lieutenants. That leaves less cops on the street and that creates overtime!

    Hamilton’s numbers say it all. There is a little over $300,000.00 left of a $1,900,000.00 overtime budget with five months left to go. That means the department is way over budget. Pay raises from a contract settlement have nothing to do with the current overtime budget.

    The mayor pretty much lied to you NoN. These promotions are not needed. The positions don’t exist. This is nothing more than election year hyjinks that will cost the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dolllars.

  6. LWitherspoon


    Did NoN ask the Mayor about the apparent inconsistency between the Mayor’s comment that Chief Kulhawik wanted captains in the department, and Chief Kulhawik’s own statement to the contrary on October 9, 2012? One wonders if the Mayor is clumsily attempting payback to the police union which endorsed him, while claiming that it’s entirely the Chief’s idea. The Union was staunchly in favor of maintaining the rank of captain.

    “When I first got elected to be mayor, knowing that Chief (Thomas) Kulhawik had at one point in time indicated that he thought he should have captains in the department, I approached him and I said keep in mind, or start thinking about, a table of organization that you feel would be in the best interest of the department or help you run the department effectively and efficiently,” Rilling said Sunday. Source: NoN, 1/19/15

    How can the above be true when the Common Council October 9, 2012 meeting minutes state as follows:

    “Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik, addressed the resolution about re-instating the rank of Captain in the Police Department. He said that this is not a good solution and said that since 2007 there have been no Captains promoted. He said that it was not until 2010
    when the Union grieved. He said that the Deputy Chief positions are 24/7 positions and that is necessary to deal with the 24/7 aspect of Policed work. Promoting Captains will decrease the number of officers available for patrol. Chief Kulhawik said that the resolution should not be approved.”

    Video: http://www.norwalkct.org/index.aspx?NID=1360

    Chief Kulhawik speaks at 7:30 in the video.

    Minutes: http://www.norwalkct.org/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/5724

  7. Bill

    @Harry Rilling, answer the questions and come out and say it. If you want race quotas let the voters know so we can kick you out of office for placing the interests of a single minority group over the interests of taxpayers.

  8. Kevin Di Mauro

    I liked it better when I didn’t know what the chief of police looked like or what his name was. I just had a feeling that there was an enormous improvement in gang related violence since he took over, and I feel much safer now. Hopefully this will continue.

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