Parting gift for chief: pay raise

The City Council voted Wednesday to hike Chief Chuck Fulton's pay retroactively from January. Fulton retires Friday.

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WALLA WALLA -- Three days before his retirement, the City Council voted to increase police Chief Chuck Fulton's salary by $880.67 per month.

The action was approved 6-1 at the Wednesday night City Council meeting.

The raise will be retroactive from Jan. 1, cost the city $2,642 and make Fulton's retiring salary equal to that of recently hired replacement Police Chief Scott Bieber, who will earn $123,350 per year.

"I believe the city of Walla Walla has an issue that needs to be resolved this evening," Council member Jerry Cummins began his motion to increase Fulton's salary.

Cummins said the raise was justified "because of fairness and equity due to changes in" Fulton's job description.

Last year, Fulton took on additional supervisory duties because of construction of the new police station and he recently oversaw the department's move to the new facility, Cummins said.

City documents stated Fulton was eligible for a review and salary increase as of Jan. 1, but that adjustment was delayed.

Council member Barbara Clark, who voted against the raise, questioned if Council was overstepping its bounds.

"I see this as a management decision rather than a Council decision; I feel uncomfortable for the Council to make a decision for Council to set salaries," Clark said.

Traditionally, city employee salaries are set by department heads or through labor contract agreements, with the exception of the city manager, who is hired by City Council.

City Attorney Tim Donaldson said RCW 35A.13.090 allows Council to increase salaries, and later added that the ordinance to increase Fulton's salary had the city manager's approval, one of the stipulations of the RCW.

There was some question as to whether Fulton's retirement pay will be based on his higher salary, a decision that will be made by the Law Enforcement Officers and Fire Fighters Plan One commission.

The decision on Fulton's retirement level will not affect city funding.

According to LEOFF 1 Coalition website, the LEOFF 1 pension fund currently "includes about $1 billion more than is needed to fund benefits for current and future LEOFF Plan 1 retirees."

Alfred Diaz can be reached at alfreddiaz@wwub.com or 526-8325.

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