HARTFORD —— City employees will no longer receive bonuses for exceptional on-the-job performance, unless previously agreed upon in a union contract.
The city council voted Monday to abolish the practice of handing out the financial awards. Members have said city officials shouldn't be giving out bonuses at a time when the city is facing budget deficits.
Hartford is facing a projected $70 million shortfall next year, which Mayor Pedro Segarra has proposed closing with a combination of deep spending cuts, money from the rainy day fund, employee concessions and savings achieved by restructuring city debt.
The plan to stop the bonuses, agreed to by Segarra and all nine council members, was announced 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 takes effect upon adoption. Union members are exempt from the plan 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 were awarded to employees who exceeded the scope of their duties by taking on additional responsibilities. Forty-five city employees received bonuses over the past 3 ½ years.
Segarra has defended the awards, saying the employees went beyond their regular duties to bring in revenue or help save the city money.
"Every person who received [a bonus] went above and beyond their day-to-day work," Segarra said. "All [bonuses] need to be documented and justified. To suggest they were given arbitrarily is false and misleading."
The proposal to get rid of the bonuses came several weeks after Councilman Kenneth Kennedy, a Democrat, introduced a plan that would have given the council final approval over who receives the awards — instead of the mayor. Segarra had opposed the idea.
Kennedy withdrew his proposal Monday.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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