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Santa Fe offers police officers $4,700 retention bonuses

January 6, 2019

Mayor Alan Webber has offered every Santa Fe police officer a retention bonus of $4,700 in exchange for staying with the city for six months, a deal the president of the police union previously called “insulting” and “a slap in the face” to the rank and file.

Webber disclosed Friday that his administration managed to ferret out $600,000 in the city’s current budget for the bonuses.

The mayor also said that Detective Tony Trujillo, president of the Santa Fe Police Officers Association, had agreed to the $600,000 offer, which left Webber questioning why Trujillo would bad-mouth the proposal in the press.

Trujillo offered a different version of his dealings with City Hall.

Trujillo agreed that the $600,000 figure was part of the negotiations, but he said the city’s human resources director, Bernadette Salazar, told him it was “merely a starting point.”

“If the $600,000 was in cement, if that was concrete, if that was it and nothing else, there was no need to negotiate anything then,” he said. “If they were going to dig their heels in and say, ‘Hey, $600,000, no more, no less,’ then what was the point of any negotiations?”

But a document the city provided at The New Mexican’s request shows that Trujillo signed an agreement to reopen negotiations and that compensation “for the limited purpose of negotiating retention incentives” for the current fiscal year was only up to $600,000.

But Trujillo said it’s up to union members, not him, to accept or reject the proposed bonus package.

“There’s no way I can sit there and agree to it,” he said. “It would have to be ratified by our union membership.”

The collective bargaining agreement between the police union and the city expires in June. As part of an effort to keep officers from leaving for better-paying jobs in Albuquerque and elsewhere, Webber and his administration offered police retention bonuses as a short-term gesture of goodwill until a new contract is signed.

“We are working on longer-term pay increases as part an an overall improvement agenda,” City Manager Erik Litzenberg wrote in a letter to the police union on Dec. 21. He requested a meeting to reopen the current contract “for the specific purpose of putting immediate financial retention incentives on the table.”

While City Hall is concerned about losing officers to Albuquerque, the numbers don’t seem to support their concerns.

By their own admission, city officials say they aren’t “hemorrhaging” officers and that current staffing levels are adequate. The Santa Fe Police Department lost 10 officers to the Albuquerque Police Department between August and December.

After he agreed to open up the contract, Trujillo said, the negotiations soured.

“Once I signed [the agreement to negotiate retention bonuses], they held my feet to the fire and said, ‘Well, you agreed to only $600,000.’ I said, ‘No, that was a starting point,’ ” Trujillo recalled. “It was kind of a fast one pulled.”

Trujillo said the proposed $4,700 retention bonuses weren’t close to the $15,000 bonuses the union requested, though that figure was also meant to be a starting point in the negotiations.

“They didn’t try to work with us, to negotiate with us and say, ‘We’re going to try and get this up closer to where you guys want to be,’ ” he said. “The slap in the face wasn’t the amount. It was just how it was negotiated.”

Trujillo said the union is meeting with its members to review the mayor’s proposal on Tuesday and then voting on it Thursday. The governing body would also have to authorize the retention bonuses.

Last week, Trujillo said he had serious doubts about whether or not officers would accept the proposal.

“From what I’ve been hearing since we last spoke, it can go either way,” he said.

While some officers are saying the financial incentive is money they didn’t have in their pockets before, “some guys are sayings, ‘Are you freaking kidding me? I’m not going to vote for this.’ ”

Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.

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