Bonus pay survives political assault Some on Baltimore Co. council view bonuses for firefighters, police as political reward.

April 02, 1991|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Evening Sun Staff

A bonus pay plan for some Baltimore County firefighters and police, which was negotiated last year by the previous county administration, survived a bitter political attack before the County Council approved it.

Freshman Republican Councilman William A. Howard 4th, R-6th, charged that the $700,000 worth of one-time pay incentives were merely political payoffs for the backing then-County Executive Dennis F. Rasmussen received from county firefighter and police unions in his re-election bid. Rasmussen lost, despite the union endorsements, to Roger B. Hayden, a Republican.

"The people of the 6th District didn't put me in this chair to pay Dennis Rasmussen's campaign debts," Howard said in opposing the measures.

John J. Hohman, president of the Baltimore County Firefighters Local 1311, and George H. Hokemeyer, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 4, both strongly denied Howard's charges, as did several other council members.

Funding for the incentive plans, which was made during collective bargaining a year ago, was supported at last night's meeting by the Hayden administration. The vote on both bills last night was 5-2, with Howard and Dundalk's Donald C. Mason, D-7th, voting "no."

The plans provide bonus money for firefighters who get training beyond that required for their jobs. The incentives average about $500 apiece, Hohman has said.

Police officers who have served at least four years and lieutenants with two years service in rank would get an average 4.5 percent one-time raise. The object, according to county officials, is to encourage veteran officers already at the top of their rank pay scale and ineligible for further pay increases to stay in service longer.

Councilman Vincent Gardina, D-5th, himself a former county police officer, said the plan was first proposed when he was on the force in 1979 and was not conceived as a political reward for Rasmussen's backers.

The unions agreed to the bonus payments last April after the county budget was submitted to the council, but the Rasmussen administration did not immediately fund the plan. After Rasmussen and five of the seven council members lost re-election bids last fall, consideration of the funding was delayed until the new council took office.

The money, $340,000 for firefighters and $362,000 for police, is to come from county surplus funds.

Councilman Melvin Mintz, D-2nd, one of two members re-elected in November, rebuffed Howard's remarks, saying "I hope we've heard the last political speech of 1990."

Charles A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-3rd, chairman of the council last year, challenged Howard to put up or shut up on his accusations because they "are close to the issue of integrity."

Howard did not comment further, however. Ruppersberger noted that the old council could have approved the money after the November election, but waited to let the newly elected members decide.

Council Chairman Douglas B. Riley, R-4th, also voted for the money, saying he felt duty bound to honor negotiated agreements, even though he opposes such one-time bonuses. Berchie Lee Manley, R-1st, also voted in favor for the same reason, she said.

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