LOCKPORT – The Niagara County Legislature will vote Tuesday to come up with back pay for six former North Tonawanda police dispatchers who were underpaid when they moved to the county Sheriff’s Office two years ago.
The cost, to be reimbursed in full by the City of North Tonawanda, will include $121,798 for salaries and benefits, and $30,000 in legal fees for the law firm that lost the case.
The six won a lawsuit against the county to have their city seniority applied to their county pay scale.
The agreement to transfer North Tonawanda dispatching duties to the county placed the six on Step 3 of the six-step county dispatcher pay chart.
That set their pay at $20.20 per hour.
However, if their experience from North Tonawanda had been counted in full, they would have been placed on the top step of the scale and paid $23.15, with most also being eligible for an additional 47 cents an hour in longevity pay and 10 extra vacation days per year.
Niagara County Judge Matthew J. Murphy III ruled in February 2013 that the county-city agreement violated state Civil Service Law, and ordered the North Tonawanda six – Lisa DiFrancesco, Kelly Earnst, Brenda Higgins, Michael Janowsky, Michelle Maraschiello and Raymond Yurek – to be paid at the higher rate. The county appealed, but the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court ruled in June that Murphy got it right.
The county’s labor law firm, Jaeckle Fleischmann & Mugel of Buffalo, will pocket $30,000 in legal fees, also ultimately coming from North Tonawanda.
“The original agreement stated that any unknown costs or new costs would be covered by North Tonawanda,” said Thomas C. Beatty, chief deputy of the Sheriff’s Office.
Peter P. Lopes, county human resources director, confirmed that the payment authorized Tuesday covers only back pay, not future pay for the six dispatchers. Under the 2012 intermunicipal agreement, North Tonawanda was responsible for 100 percent of the dispatchers’ pay through the end of 2013, 75 percent this year, 50 percent in 2015 and 25 percent in 2016.
In other items on Tuesday’s legislature agenda, lawmakers are expected to create two full-time deputy sheriff positions to handle security at the Social Services offices in Lockport and Niagara Falls.