Financially reeling Long Beach will conduct an audit of retirement payments to two police officers slated to cost the city more than $1 million, city officials said.
The move drew immediate criticism from the city's police union, which said Lt. Jim McCormack and Det. Sgt. Howard Domitz are contractually entitled to the money.
McCormack is due to receive $572,863 and Domitz $521,461 under the city's retirement payout plan, which grants retiring officers money for unused sick time, vacation time and compensatory time. McCormack and Domitz, both of whom joined the force in 1978, retired in February and April, respectively, city officials said.
Domitz had $108,426 worth of sick days, $72,452 in vacation pay, $104,123 in compensatory time and $111,130 in termination pay, plus other payments. McCormack had $118,481 in sick time, $53,460 in vacation time, $173,038 in compensatory time, and $119,420 in termination pay.
The audit is needed because the city faces a projected $10.25 million deficit for the current fiscal year, City Manager Jack Schnirman said. The city will also ask the officers to take retirement payments over three years as opposed to the typical 60 days, he said.
"Without a doubt, these officers gave us numerous years of service, and valuable service, but we are asking them to help us one more time and let us catch our breath," City Councilman Scott Mandel said.
McCormack and Domitz could not be reached. The officers earned their retirement payouts and are not required to negotiate a different payout plan, said police union president Kenny Apple. "It's time earned and it's contractual," Apple said.
The audit comes as cash-strapped Long Beach is planning a 4.1 percent tax levy increase -- plus a temporary 11.9 percent increase to address the deficit. That would raise Long Beach taxes by about $430, to $2,904, for the owner of an average home next year, city officials have said.
The city needs to renegotiate the police contract to reduce large future retirement payouts, said Councilman John McLaughlin. The city owes more than $3.7 million in retirement payouts in fiscal 2011-12, including the McCormack and Domitz packages, city officials said."Auditing something like that will not only double-check the numbers, and verify the numbers, but it will also make people realize we have to find a way to cap their compensation packages," McLaughlin said.