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Auburn police reorganization brings new positions for some

Pay is justified for the work being done, officers say
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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With reorganization at the Auburn Police Department finalized, one citizen said he is more concerned about what public officials make after they retire than during their employment, and officers said their jobs merit their pay. The retirement of Chief Valerie Harris brought the appointment of John Ruffcorn as the department’s new chief. Harris is also serving as Auburn Police’s interim police chief when Ruffcorn is unavailable. Harris makes $2,551.60 per week of employment as interim chief. She is currently serving as interim chief from July 5 to July 19. She has an annual CalPERS pension of $120,280.20, according to Edd Fong, spokesman for CalPERS. Fong said it is almost impossible to calculate what the city of Auburn’s portion of Harris’ pension is because the amount and rate of contributions is adjusted every year. Fong said the largest amount of pension payouts is not generated from employer or employee contributions. “About 65-70 percent of what we pay out in benefits comes from investment earnings,” he said. Auburn resident James McKesson said he thinks law enforcement officers should be paid a fair amount while they are employed, but should have to pay for their own retirements. “While they are working it has got to be a realistic sum of money,” McKesson said. “I know these people put their lives in danger, they have got a very stressful job. They know that it’s a dangerous job, and they should be paid while they are working accordingly, but after that the game’s up guys. Invest your own money and take your lumps like the rest of us. That’s where I’m at, but how do we get that on the ballot?” McKesson said in terms of labor negotiations, he believes they should be kept in open City Council sessions for the public to see. When asked about people who might be critical about her getting a pension and being paid for her interim chief work, Harris said her goal is simply to keep the work at the department flowing. “(My duty is to) provide needed coverage in a decision making capacity when the chief is out of the area or not available, (on a) very limited basis, and my commitment is to help keep this department flowing and operating at the highest level possible in a support role,” she said. “People will always be critical, and my goal is simply to continue to do a good job in whatever capacity.” As the new police chief, Ruffcorn is scheduled to make a base annual salary of $132,685 after a 3.15 percent cut from $137,000. All managers are currently experiencing this cut, according to Andy Heath, director of administrative services for the city. The city is also paying an additional $43,312 annually for his benefits. Ruffcorn has said he believes his salary is fair and is not the reason he got into law enforcement. “I’m grateful to be given this opportunity,” he said. “I think if you compare not just my salary but all of the salaries of the people working in Auburn to other organizations, I think you will find they are fair and equitable. I didn’t join this profession to get rich. I joined it because I enjoy helping people and making a difference.” The department recently promoted Gary Hopping and Scott Alford to its sergeant positions and assigned Sgt. Michael Garlock as the new administrative sergeant. Hopping is earning an annual base salary of $82,275 with an additional annual $41,812 in benefits. Alford is earning an annual base salary of $77,161 with an additional annual $39,685 in benefits. Garlock is earning a base annual salary of $98,268 with an additional annual $37,998 in benefits. According to Heath, the city is saving an annual $133,205 in its general fund account because of the police department’s reorganization, which includes a vacant police captain position. Alford said for those who are critical of public officials’ salaries, he doesn’t think his full salary package is a good representation of what he is actually taking home. “It kills me when they put out these salary amounts in the paper, because I have yet to see $70,000 on one of my pay stubs,” Alford said. “I hope people understand that, that we are not taking home six-figure salaries. It’s far from that. I’ll probably make just over $70,000 and that doesn’t include my deductions for health insurance.” Alford said he has several goals for his new position. “My goals first off are to serve the community, because that is who we work for, also to serve the line staff that I’m supervising and to carry out the wishes of the administration that I serve,” he said. “I think it’s important that I have this position just because I think that my experience (is relevant). I have a lot of management experience in the private sector working in risk management, and I think my outlook is service based.” Hopping said for those who might be critical of their salaries, the amounts are justified for the work that goes into the job. “My frustration is the fact I don’t think people understand the job we do and the toll it takes on us officers personally and the toll it takes on our families,” Hopping said. “I hear people say, ‘You chose a profession, you have got to accept it.’ But how many of us know what we are getting into?” Hopping said one of his main goals in the new position is to make his officers’ jobs easier, to support them and be a resource of them. Garlock said his new position comes with a variety of tasks. “I’m basically in charge of the dispatch center, so I’ll be in charge of any issues and scheduling for dispatchers,” Garlock said. “And I’ll also be assisting with any policies, training and assisting with budgets, equipment and procuring.” Garlock said he had a response to those who might be critical about his salary. “People are going to think what they want,” he said. “I don’t set the salaries or the salary schedules. I don’t have any control over that. I know our sergeants association has worked with the city to minimize costs.” Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com ------------------------------------------------------ City-paid salaries and benefits of those involved in reorganization. All figures are what employees receive annually. Valerie Harris Retired police chief CalPERS gross annual pension: $120,280.20 Health benefits: Harris must pay for separately Interim police chief salary per week of service: $2,551.60 John Ruffcorn Police chief Base salary annually: $132,685 after 3.15 percent reduction from $137,000 Health benefits: $7,355 Medical savings plan: does not participate Life insurance: $500 Employer portion of CalPERS: $32,626 Medicare portion of FICA: $1,924 Uniform allowance: $800 Employee assistance program: $107 Total: $175,997 Scott Alford Sergeant Base salary annually: $77,161 Health benefits: $13,286 Medical savings plan: $2,280 Life Insurance: $162 Employer portion of CalPERS: $21,931 Medicare portion of FICA: $1,119 Uniform allowance: $800 Employee assistance program: $107 Total: $116,846 Gary Hopping Sergeant Base salary annually: $82,275 Health benefits: $13,286 Medical savings plan: $2,880 Life insurance: $162 Employer portion of CalPERS: $23.384 Medicare portion of FICA: $1,193 Uniform allowance: $800 Employee assistance program: $107 Total: $124,087 Michael Garlock Administrative sergeant Base salary annually: $98,268 Health benefits: $4,694 Medical savings plan: $2,880 Life insurance: $162 Employer portion of CalPERS: $27,930 Medicare portion of FICA: $1,425 Uniform allowance: $800 Employee assistance program: $107 Total: $136,266 City general fund annual savings generated through reorganization: $133,205