Kansas City Police Chief Darryl Forté will be owed more than $499,117 for accrued vacation, sick and comp time when he formally retires in May after a 30-year career in law enforcement.
Forté, 55, alerted leaders of the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners about his decision to retire Tuesday night. Forté later told The Star that he plans to take a law school admission test and attend law school.
Forté said he was aware of how much retirement pay was owed to him under his contract and that he earned the full amount.
“Are people concerned about the city paying out $500,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit several weeks ago?” Forté asked The Star on Thursday, referring to the City Council’s approval of a payment for a Water Services employee’s claim of a sexually hostile workplace. That settlement covered the plaintiff’s payment plus attorney’s fees after a trial.
“I have never concerned myself with what people think about my compensation,” Forté said. “I didn’t take vacation every year, and I was rarely sick.”
The police union used the news of the high payout — revealed on the eve of the City Council’s 2017-2018 budget vote Thursday — to lobby for pay increases for officers. The council passed a budget that does allow for officer raises but not as much as the union wanted. Council members said their decision was not affected by Forté’s payout.
When Forté retires in May, his payout is expected to be similar to what prior police chiefs have received, said Alvin Brooks, a member of the police board.
“I can’t have a problem when I know what he has been doing,” Brooks said. “...I can’t have a problem with that.”
Since becoming police chief in 2011, Forté has maintained a high profile. He routinely shows up at crime scenes, sometimes in his off-duty clothes and riding his Harley. He tweets information and photos of officers, attends community meetings and is often accessible to residents through social media platforms.
“He was encouraged to bring about the kind of change needed in this particular day and time,” Brooks said. “It is not 8 to 5 but anytime that is necessary to reach the community, and he has done that,” he said.
Mayor Sly James, also on the police board, said he too thought that former Police Chiefs Jim Corwin and Rick Easley also had the potential for a generous retirement payout, although he didn’t know if they had accrued as much comp time and vacation time as Forté.
“This is something that’s been in their (police) policies and procedures,” James said. “This is not new. It’s just a big number.”
James said he didn’t know if the next police chief would be in line for such a generous retirement payout, but he would be in favor of considering some type of limitation.
“Let’s put it this way,” he said. “I think that there will be an increased and heightened sensitivity to those types of issues.”
As of March 10, Forté had accumulated:
▪ 2,526.9 hours of compensatory time;
▪ 1,545 hours of vacation time, plus 40 hours accrued so far in 2017;
▪ 5,442.10 hours of sick time.
His compensatory time owed him as of March 10 is $230,467.86. Vacation and sick leave owed Forté as of March 10 is $268,649.33.
Forté’s annual salary is $189,708.
The city’s police union said Wednesday that it was concerned the large one-time payout would cut into the Police Department’s overall budget and its request for more money for raises for officers.
The union urged the City Council not to cut money for officers’ salaries to fund Forté’s payout when it voted Thursday on the new city budget for 2017-2018.
“We implore the city council to do what is right for our officers and those who live and work in Kansas City and not let this news impact this vote,” Sgt. Brad Lemon, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 99, said in a statement. “Our officers and our citizens should not suffer for something in which they have no control.”
The City Council voted Thursday afternoon on a new city budget, including Police Department spending, that did not meet all the group’s demands. But council members said Forté’s payout did not influence their decision.
The new budget, beginning May 1, allocates $250.8 million for the Police Department, an increase from $242.5 million this fiscal year. Part of that increase is intended for Police Department raises, but it was less than the Fraternal Order of Police had sought.
The money for Forté’s retirement is available in next year’s Police Department budget, allocated by the city. The department has a separation account that covers employee retirements and pensions, and it includes money that would be paid to Forté, said Deputy Chief Patty Higgins, who leads the department’s executive services bureau.
The union had hoped for an additional $1.7 million in raises as a one-year catch-up for officers whose pay was frozen for two years and who are not already at the top of their pay scale, Lemon said.
In its budget vote, the City Council did not agree to that additional increase. James and several others said they would not approve additional increases until they saw more consolidations between police and city functions.
In a statement late Thursday, Lemon said the union was extremely disappointed with the council’s budget vote.
“The requested money was needed to keep KCPD competitive with neighboring agencies,” Lemon said, referring to a study showing Kansas City’s maximum police salary ranks low in the metro area. “We are losing the officers we train to nearby agencies more than ever before.”
The police continue to negotiate on a raise package that is scheduled to go into effect in May. The current pay package ends in April.
In his initial statement on Forté’s payout, Lemon urged the police board to rethink the practice of negotiating generous leave time accruals with future police chiefs.
“Every other member on the department is capped at the amount of time they can accrue,” Lemon said in his statement. “Moving forward we hope the BOPC re-examines this practice and does what is in the best interest of everyone in Kansas City.”
As of March 10, Police Chief Darryl Forté had accumulated:
▪ 2,526.9 hours of compensatory time, for a payment of $230,467.86;
▪ 1,545 hours of vacation time, plus 40 hours accrued so far in 2017 and 5,442.10 hours of sick time, for a payment of $268,649.33.