Back Door Raises

12:04 AM, Jun 15, 2013   |    comments
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Lackawanna City Hall

LACKAWANNA, NY - When the Lackawanna City Council recently approved a new contract for the city's police officers - it also ended up automatically giving raises to up to a dozen division and department heads that have nothing to do with law enforcement.

However, the Council President claims lawmakers were unaware of the full affect of their actions.

The new four-year deal with the police union, with raises and back pay for the 43 members of the force, will cost taxpayers about $700,000.

It is money well spent, according to City Council President Hank Pirowski.

"They deserve it. It's been four years without them getting a raise," Pirowski told WGRZ-TV.

However, in approving the police contract, the council also approved raises (unwittingly according to Pirowski) for a dozen department and division heads which will cost taxpayers an additional $150,000 due to a clause passed in 2009 which automatically "ties-in" any raises granted to police, to non union department and division heads, with similar percentage raises.

Pirowski notes none of the current city council members were serving when the tie-in clause was put in place four years ago.

"In the police contract we were handed to approve, there is absolutely no mention of the tie in with the non bargaining unit," he said.

Nor did any of the department or division heads mention it, according to Pirowski.

Not even City Attorney Antonio Savaglio, who negotiated the police contract and himself, got a raise because of it.

"That's a conflict of interest to me. You should not be at the table negotiating your own raise," Pirowski said.

The City Attorney's secretary told us that due to a death in his family, he was unavailable to speak with us today.

Pirowski is willing to own some, but not all of what occurred.

"I understand that in my position I need to do what's best for taxpayers, and in a sense I'm very frustrated in my own decision to vote for this. However I was going with the information I was given and relying on department heads to give us honest answers when we asked how this would affect the budget. In this case, we were not given totally honest answers," Pirowski said.

Two On Your Side sent e-mails to, left phone messages for, and visited the offices of Mayor Geoffrey Szymanski on Friday.

Szymanski was a member of the city council when it approved the tie in clause in 2009.

His assistant said the mayor was out surveying damage from recent flooding and Szymanski had not return our calls or messages as of early Friday evening.

One division head, who declined to speak on camera, told us he believed the tie in clause was set up to take "politics out" of which department or division heads got raises, and how much they received, because they would automatically all get the same.

Pirowski said that makes no sense, and is trying to figure out a way to eliminate the tie-in clause, without undoing the new police contract and the raises granted officers, which he said are "richly deserved".

Click on the video player to watch our story from 2 On Your Side Reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalist Bob Mancuso. Follow Dave on Twitter:@DaveMcKinley2


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