Police park take home cars, question whether allowances are 'per - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Police park take home cars, question whether allowances are 'perks'

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By Gordon Boyd
Eyewitness News Reporter

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) --Squad cars and personal vehicles fill the Police Services parking lot on the first day the city of Chattanooga charges police officers commuter mileage fees if they keep taking home their cruisers.

More than 260 officers, three quarters of the force, are opting to park rather than pay. But Chief Bobby Dodd insists they're doing so, not to make a point; but to make ends meet.

"A lot of officers, they're making $35,000 a year, they're paying the bills," Chief Dodd says, "They can't afford an additional fee to use something that's assigned to them to do their jobs."

But Mayor Ron Littlefield's Administration now concedes that half a dozen of senior managers are in-line for raises of $4800 a year, as compensation for losing their $400 monthly vehicle allowances.

All affected draw six-figure salaries. City Court Judge Russell Bean tops the list at $154, 320 yearly, according to salary records for 2009.

Those same records indicate Finance Administrator Daisy Madison earned at least $124,812; Neighborhood Services director Beverly Johnson $111,070,  Parks & Recreation director Larry Zehnder $108,461 and Air Pollution Control overseer Bob Colby $107,547.

"The money went from a perk to a salary enhancement," says Sgt. Craig Joel, of the Chattanooga Police Benevolent Association.

"There's supposed to be some paperwork out there with some evidence to that effect, but nothing would really surprise me."

Via written statement, Mayoral spokesman Richard Beeland tells Eyewitness News that City Council first signed off on the car allowances back in 1998 and that a city ordinance has guaranteed the take-home car perk for "as long as those employees hold their current position."

Only two of the six, had the same job titles in 1998 as in 2011.

"It's a line item added in the budget each year by the Mayor," Sgt. Joel claims, "And if it wasn't something that could be suspended before, why can they be suspended now?"

Beeland says Mayor Littlefield has put the salary boosts on hold, until the City Attorney determines whether they're legal.

Chief Dodd expects his own officers to live with whichever choice they've made.

"If there's a problem they'll bring it to our attention," he says, "But thank goodness cops adjust. we do what we do. we do it well."

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