Gary seeks end to pay ceiling Police chief overpaid under current limits

March 18, 1997|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

County Police Chief Larry W. Tolliver is making $12,000 more a year than county regulations allow, but his salary would be approved under a bill proposed last night by the man who gave him the job, County Executive John G. Gary.

The bill would erase salary limitations for appointed employees, allowing Tolliver to keep his $81,500 salary and giving Gary power to pay all department heads appointed after Jan. 31, 1997, any salary he chooses between the minimum and maximum for their grade level.

Under the current law, county employees are permitted up to 15 percent more than the base salary for their newly appointed positions. For Tolliver, that ceiling would be $69,464.

"He's being paid too much right now," said Diane Evans, County Council chairwoman. "What's happening now is a violation of the code, and it needs to be addressed."

County Auditor Teresa Sutherland found what she called an "irregularity and improper procedure" in Tolliver's salary Feb. 28 when she read in local newspapers how much money the new chief was making.

She sent a memo to Gary and to the County Council detailing the problem, and Gary set County Attorney Phillip F. Scheibe to work on a proposal to change the law.

The chief's salary is the second issue in two months that has put Sutherland and Evans on one side and Gary on the other.

In February, Gary was enraged that Sutherland, worried about irregularities in the handling of inmates' money at the county jail, had gone to the state's attorney's office, and he threatened to sue her. Then, he railed against Evans for talking about his threat to reporters and cut off what had been regular briefing sessions with her and other council leaders.

The salary bill introduced to the council last night uses the framework of laws governing salary for merit employees to "level the playing field" for appointed employees, Scheibe said. It could be debated in a public hearing as early as April 7.

The proposal would abolish the current rules, which limit an appointed employee to 15 percent above base except when:

The employee is making more than 15 percent of the base salary. In that case, the employee is allowed to make up to 35 percent above base.

The employee is transferring from merit service to exempt service and his salary is above the 15 percent limit. In that case, the employee is limited to 5 percent above base.

Neither of those exceptions applies to the police chief. Before he was appointed chief Feb. 1, he was the county executive's liaison to the fire and police departments and made $55,000.

Scheibe said that if the bill is passed as written, Tolliver would have to give back to the county the $1,000 a month he has been overpaid from the time he took office to the time the new law takes effect.

"Tolliver is an innocent victim in this," Scheibe said. "Somebody made an error in judgment about what he is allowed to get.

"He'd be the lowest paid chief of police in the area if he were getting just what the law allows him."

Pub Date: 3/18/97

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