Sick leave buy back may look like a huge intial hit to the city, but city officials said the program shouldn't be viewed in terms of cash. (photo by Zach Dietmeier/WJBC)
By Zach Dietmeier
BLOOMINGTON - The departure of Bloomington Police Chief Randy McKinley has the city looking at ways to limit sick leave buy back.
City Attorney Todd Greenburg said the buy back program was not something Bloomington voluntarily did.
"It was something that the city fought in arbitration but was unsuccessful," Greenburg said. "Police rank and file officers had the buy back and when sergeants and lieutenants organized a few years later, they received sick leave programs as part of the union contract because we knew we would be unsuccessful in arbitration."
The 28-year police veteran racked up over $96,000 in retirement health benefits that can only be used for medical costs. Those funds can't be translated into cash.
"It's not a cash payout," Greenburg said. "It goes into a fund that is only used for the payment of health insurance premiums and other medical expenses. If the person were to die before the amount is exceded, you don't get it in your estate or anything like that."
Greenburg said a cash payout will not go to McKinley other than for unused vacation time, of which the former chief accumulated $16,428. Sick leave buy back is not a unique concept but the city has for years looked at how it can limit such high totals.
"Chief McKinley has it because it would be very difficult to persuade someone to take all the extra responsibilites and headaches of being a chief of police if you're also asking them to take a major cut in benefits," Greenburg said.
The program comes from labor contract agreements.
"We tried several times to reduce the buy back in various ways like setting up two-tiered situations where new employees have less generous sick leave than more senior employees," Greenburg said. "That's a fairly common way in which employers in a unionized environment try to get out from under burdens."
Greenburg said the program exists for other city employee unions including the fire department.