D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier, whose five-year employment contract expired in April, is negotiating a new pact that could further elevate her $253,000 per year salary, the fourth-highest in the nation.
But looming on the horizon, pending the outcome of the negotiation, is a law approved by the D.C. Council in March that sought to cap executive salaries such as hers.
Introduced by D.C. Council member Mary Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat, the bill was approved in the wake of a council committee investigation into Mayor Vincent C. Gray's executive hiring and pay scandal, and in reaction to escalating executive salaries under former Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, according to Ms. Cheh's office.
Kiara Pesante, a spokeswoman for Ms. Cheh, said the bill "capped executive salaries, eliminated cost-of-living bonuses and will require any replacement to those positions to revert to the salary levels" that existed before Mr. Fenty took office.
Asked whether this could pose a problem if Chief Lanier's new contract — once it is finalized — includes salary and bonus increases, Ms. Pesante said, "Presumably she could be able to negotiate subject to council approval, but I doubt the council would be inclined to approve higher salaries" for Chief Lanier — or for Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe, Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson or Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Marie Pierre-Louis.
Chief Lanier's office did not respond for comment.
Pedro Ribeiro, spokesman for Mr. Gray, confirmed in an email this week that "negotiations are ongoing" with Chief Lanier but denied that her contract has expired. But in January, in her "Ask the Chief" segment with WTOP Radio, Chief Lanier said of her contract: "It expires in April. I haven't finalized anything new. I think I'll probably be here a while."
The D.C. Council approved a five-year contract for Chief Lanier on April 3, 2007, that included performance bonus incentives, cost-of-living increases and the right to participate in collective bargaining with the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents 3,500 city officers. It later was modified to protect her retirement benefits.
Kristopher Baumann, FOP president, said the Cheh bill merely preserved the status quo for Mr. Gray while sparing him from having to seek contract extensions for Chief Lanier and others during a time of rising scandal and fiscal uncertainty. Meanwhile, his members have not had a contract or a cost-of-living increase in more than five years, he said.
Chief Lanier's original annual salary in 2007 was $175,000. Her most- recent reported salary is $253,000 per year. Depending on how she fares at the bargaining table, Mr. Baumann said, the Cheh bill guarantees her current salary under a new contract or allows the council to approve an increase.
"Over the past five years, Chief Lanier has increased her compensation by 35 percent, given raises and promotions to top management officials and allowed command staff to enrich themselves," Mr. Baumann said in an email. "At the same time, rank and file officers have not had a contract or a raise in five years."
Mr. Baumann said Chief Lanier's original contract contained an extraordinary provision allowing her to participate in contract negotiations with the FOP. Most police departments, he said, limit a chief's input into officers' working conditions.
According to Mr. Gray's office, Chief Lanier's contract status is well under control and destined for council approval.
"Any employment agreement will be posted online within 30 days of its execution," Mr. Ribeiro said in an email. "Council action will be required to approve any employment terms or conditions that are inconsistent with existing law.
"We are optimistic that a new agreement to retain [Chief Lanier's] services will be finalized shortly."
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