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How to count paid time off among sticking points in Lake County police contract discussions

Lake County Council members discuss a police contract during their April 9 meeting.
screenshot from Lake County Indiana Council YouTube video
Lake County Council members discuss a police contract during their April 9 meeting.

The Lake County Council appears to be closer to finalizing a contract with county police, after negotiations spilled into the council's regular public meeting Tuesday.

Council President Christine Cid said the council's negotiation team's most recent offer included a five-percent pay raise this year, followed by four-percent raises in 2025 and 2026. That's less than half of the union's initial request.

But the bigger sticking point was whether paid time off should be counted in days or hours, considering the number of officers working 12-hour shifts.

"I believe they want their same 10 or 12 days, but they want to get paid 12 hours for that day," Cid said. "My suggestion is to do what every other department does and you convert it into hours. Ten days is equal to 80 hours."

But Sheriff Oscar Martinez Jr. complained that the change would give officers fewer days off. "If you're working 6:00a to 2:00p and I'm working 6:00a to 6:00p, we're both going fishing, we're taking Monday off, it's a day," Martinez said. "It's a day. We're taking that day off."

Council member Charlie Brown urged the rest of the council to avoid negotiating in public and to have the negotiation team return to the bargaining table, instead. But the discussion continued anyway, as members expressed openness to the extra pay for a 12-hour day off, if that could be offset in other parts of the budget.

The sheriff responded with an offer to cover the difference with fees paid to his department's civil division. "We estimated the cost of being around $75,000," Martinez said. "That's not a problem."

He also said he had plenty of leftover pension fund money to cover a possible $400,000 gap between tax revenues and the cost of the proposed raises.

Council members generally seemed happy with the solution, although Randy Niemeyer was a bit frustrated that it wasn't reached sooner. "This is the first time in this meeting today that we've heard Sheriff Martinez say that he has the ability within even pension contributions to create foundational sustainability for this," Niemeyer said.

Still, Martinez maintained that he had brought it up before.

The two sides have been negotiating for 10 months. A number of police officers and representatives from other unions attended Tuesday's meeting to show their support.

Michael Gallenberger is a news reporter and producer that hosts All Things Considered on 89.1 FM | Lakeshore Public Media.