HARTFORD —— The practice of awarding bonuses to many city employees is expected to cease Monday.
City council members said they're poised to approve a proposal that would ban bonuses except for those included in union contracts.
The plan, sponsored by Mayor Pedro Segarra and all nine members of the council, was introduced earlier this month. Both sides agreed to eliminate the practice after council members raised concerns about some employees — high-ranking officials who are allies of Segarra — receiving more than one bonus over a short period of time.
The proposal would take effect upon adoption. The council will vote on the issue at its regular meeting Monday at city hall.
Council members said they have not completed a detailed analysis of how many union employees — if any — receive bonuses, but said the plan addresses the biggest of their concerns, namely that city officials are awarding bonuses to department heads who already make large salaries.
"The concerns I've had with the current [bonus] program are that it's been used as a backdoor option to increase compensation for some employees, and that a number of senior officials with close relationships with the mayor are getting significant and repeat bonuses," said Shawn Wooden, a Democrat and the city council president. "Most of the major problems are eliminated with this ordinance."
Union members would be exempt from the plan to eliminate bonuses because the city can't change collective bargaining rights in the middle of a contract. Under the proposal, Segarra must notify the council within 10 days of handing out any bonuses to union workers.
Records show that the city spent more than $160,000 in bonuses, called exceptional service increments, from 2010 to 2013.
The bonuses are awarded to employees who have exceeded the scope of their duties by taking on additional responsibilities or doing work that saved the city money. Forty-five city employees received bonuses over the past 3 ½ years.
Some council members said they were dismayed to learn that Jose Colon-Rivas, the city's director of families, children, youth and recreation, received a $16,223 bonus in 2011 and an $11,743 bonus in 2012. Colon-Rivas is paid an annual salary of $152,250, according to city records.
Segarra has defended the awards, saying Colon-Rivas and others went beyond their duties to save the city money and bring in revenue.
The proposal to eliminate bonuses came several weeks after Councilman Kenneth Kennedy, also a Democrat, introduced a plan that would give the city council final approval over who receives the awards instead of the mayor.
Segarra opposed Kennedy's proposal.
"I'm glad we reached a compromise," Kennedy said Friday. "I just hope no additional bonuses have been awarded during this legislative process."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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