By Kevin Boneske
ASHWAUBENON – A jury trial has been scheduled for Dec. 1-3 in Brown County Circuit Court involving two former village public safety officers who allege they did not receive their full retirement payout.
Attorneys with the Hawks Quindel law firm, which represents the Ashwaubenon Public Safety Officers’ Association (APSOA), filed the lawsuit on behalf of Tom Rolling, who was a village public safety officer from June 1992 to January 2020, and Luke Pasterski, who retired from the public safety department last year with more than 20 years of service and then became a battalion chief for De Pere Fire Rescue.
Rolling, who took over last summer as the department’s interim chief of police operations following Eric Dunning’s retirement, had been a supervisor since 2008 and also worked as a lieutenant and a commander after being a union employee from 1992 to 2008 subject to the APSOA’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA).
The complaint alleges Rolling earned $103,904 upon his retirement for sick time, vacation and compensatory time, but the village Feb. 12 paid him $90,178.
The difference of $13,725 between what Rolling claimed and was paid is based on the village using an hourly rate of $36.92 to calculate the 24-hour sick time with all the other categories of retirement payout based on a rate of $51.83, the complaint states.
According to the complaint, Rolling relied on the village’s employee handbook, the CBAs in force over that time and the village’s past practice of paying out accrued, vested sick leave, accrued vacation and compensatory time to retiring employees at their regular hourly rate of pay.
Pasterski, who worked as an Ashwaubenon public safety officer from February 1999 to April 2019, had been a union employee between 1999 and 2007 before being a department lieutenant from January 2007 until his retirement in April 2019.
According to the complaint, Pasterski received a retirement payout of $61,506 when he claimed his payout should have been $83,270.
The difference of $21,764 between what Pasterski claimed and was paid is based on the village using an hourly rate of $30.49 to calculate the 24-hour sick time, vacation accrual and 2019 vacation with only compensatory time based a rate of $42.80, according to the complaint.
Causes of action
Rolling and Pasterski accuse the village of failure to pay wages in violation of state law and breach of contract, among the suit’s causes for action.
Pasterski is seeking damages of $21,764 in unpaid wages earned, along with $10,882 in administrative penalties for 50 percent of wages due.
Rolling is seeking damages of $13,725 in unpaid wages earned, along with $6,862 in administrative penalties for 50 percent of wages due.
In addition, the suit is seeking the cost of all attorneys’ fees and the costs of this action, as well as other legal and equitable relief as deemed just and necessary by the court.
The village has disputed the officers’ hourly rate and payout amount sought in the suit, which it requested the court to dismiss.
A pre-trial conference in the case is scheduled for 1 p.m. Nov. 17 before Judge Tammy Jo Hock.
Arbitration hearing reset in grievance of retired Ashwaubenon officer
An arbitration hearing before the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC) has been rescheduled to hear the grievance of a retired Ashwaubenon public safety officer (PSO) related to his paid time off (PTO) payout.
After an in-person hearing in Ashwaubenon for Shawn Wright was postponed in April because of the COVID-19 pandemic, WERC attorney Raleigh Jones said the hearing reset for Oct. 15 will be conducted via Zoom or some other video conferencing format.
In dispute is the amount Wright should have received for accrued but unused PTO benefits upon his retirement Aug. 2, 2019.
The grievance filed by the APSOA claims the village miscalculated the hourly rates based on which it made the payout.
The union has sought to have the village recalculate Wright’s final PTO payout “in accordance with the parties’ collective bargaining agreement(s) and consistent with the manner in which the village has historically paid out such benefits to retiring PSOs.”
According to records related to the grievance, the payout to Wright was based upon his actual hourly rate of pay, which was based upon his salary divided by the number of hours required for his respective shift (i.e. 2,920 annual hours for a 24-hour shift) and not the overtime rate.
The grievance was denied by the village board, which found it “does not explain with specificity how the village allegedly miscalculated the hourly rates for the PTO retiree payout to PSO Wright and how this violates the parties’ collective bargaining agreement.”
“Additionally, the grievance does not explain with detail how the village has historically paid out such PTO benefits to retiring PSOs,” stated a letter from Village President Mary Kardoskee to APSOA attorney Aaron Halstead. “As a result, the village is unable to properly or adequately respond in specific detail to the grievance’s general allegations.”
An arbitration hearing before the WERC is the final step called for in the union’s CBA with the village to “make an ultimate and binding decision regarding the interpretation or application of a specific provision of the agreement.”