ONLY ON 3: Wilmington whacks injury leave for cops, firefighters and city workers

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Submitted: Tue, 02/25/2014 - 10:19pm
Updated: Wed, 02/26/2014 - 1:35pm

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A policy Wilmington City Council approved without discussion in November will limit the amount of benefits an employee can get if they are hurt on the job.

Some city workers are fired up, because they say nobody told them about the change.

“I don’t think we have done a very good job at all of explaining this to our employees,” city spokeswoman Malissa Talbert said.

Talbert says the city should have done more to notify workers about their change in benefits.

In November City Manager Sterling Cheatham drafted a letter to council members recommending they reconsider the city’s workers compensation policy.

“We had been providing benefits that were more generous than what was required under state law, and now we are providing what is required under state law,” Talbert said.

The new policy eliminates paying employees like firefighters and police 100 percent of their salaries if they are hurt on the job while they wait to get workers compensation.

Chuck Bower is the president of the Professional Firefighters Association. He says he wishes somebody would have told him about this policy change before today.

“All employees of the City of Wilmington deserve to be treated fairly,” Bower said. “If you are injured in service to the city of wilmington then you should be able to not have to concern yourself with where your next pay check is going to come from.”

Talbert says the city is working on setting up meetings to talk about the benefits change, but Bower says more should have been done.

“I understand that it’s within the purview of the city manager and the council to do what’s necessary to mange the finances of the city, but this is a pretty significant change,” Bower said.

A change that now affects thousands of city employees.

In his proposal, which was adopted as part of council’s consent agenda Nov. 19, Cheatham said the move would save the city about $16,000 a year.

Cheatham told us he did not understand what we were asking about when we reached him by phone this morning. He also said he was too busy to do an interview.


  • Headache says:

    Wake up. Your City Council and City Manager have run amuck. Officers and firefighters are leaving in droves for better paying jobs. In desperation to fill the slots anyone will do, any warm body. After all, its cheaper to replace a veteran employee with a newer body at entry level pay. But when “any” body will do, you my fellow citizens will get precisely the level of service that you can expect from this sort of desperation hiring. When an employer treats their employees with this level of disdain to save a few bucks that can be spent on some baseball stadium in the busy convention center parking lot by the park on the riverfront…….

    This city continually kicks employees when they’re down. It is truly mind boggling. It should have been a shock to the senses when the PD lost 3 employees to another local agency in another state at the same time. Dear citizens of Wilmington, the ineptitude within the governance of this city WILL IMPACT YOU. If you knew you were going to get hurt at work, and then be paid 66% of your already 30% below market rate pay, just how many risks do you think you’d take? Demand better treatment of your emergency service workers, this is lunacy.

  • anne says:

    Get it right – his name is “Cheat em”

  • Challengetheworld says:


    You are a joke – and you have been ever since you took the role of “City Manager” which is also a joke. Doing the bare minimum has ALWAYS BEEN THE POLICY OF THE CITY OF WILMINGTON. Your turnover at WPD has been horrific and will continue to go. No one is every treated seriously and your policies are outdated and archaic.

    Mary did a hell of a lot better than you did. Why don’t you do us all a favor and go manage a town that meets your equivalent…a town of about 2000 or something like that. You have sat comfortably in that role for years and have done nothing to increase morale or decrease turnover.

    Let me get this straight – a police officer or fire fighter goes above and beyond and subsequently gets hurt – then you tell him or her that she has to go home TO LESS PAY for obeying the oath?

  • Just another guest says:

    Wilm, you just lost so much with this disgraceful choice.

    You think gang problems have been bad? Robberies? Get ready for round two. Do you think a cop is going to chase someone now? Probably not, why would they? They might slip, they might catch him and end up fighting for their life. Not worth it.

    Love them big red trucks coming to save your house? Get ready – its just gonna burn. Why risk it? Firefighters don’t make jack already, why give so much more and risk loosing so much? They have families that they have to look out for too.

    Wilmington, if you want to come out on top, save some real money. How much would we save with a new city manager?

  • guesty says:

    CHEATham is a tool. Didn’t the city just spend $3.86 million to buy a park? I wouldn’t trust CHEATham to manage a softball team, much less a city.

    And this coming from a man that makes $170,274.00 a year. Cut his pay to make up the difference. Hell, fire him and save all that money.

  • Guest123123 says:

    I have telling everyone for years to leave government employment. You become a robot and just become so complacent.I know it is hard to leave what you know and what seems secure but there are more opportunities out there than you think. Don’t sell yourself short.

  • Guest7969 says:

    I don’t even feel sorry for them OR the citizens of Wilmington….you guys keep voting the same people into office…you got EXACTLY what you asked for!

  • 10101 says:

    Cheatham’s protected by the City Council and the City Council’s apparently protected by the voters who rewarded them for all of their malfeasance by re-electing them.

    The voters had a chance to at least attempt to make things better and instead they deliberately blew it.

    It’s more than a little too late to be crying now.

  • Robert Green says:

    Mr. CHEATham stating he is too busy for an interview is just stonewalling and dismissive. This behavior has no repercussions because he is strongly supported by a liberal city council , who do not hold him to a very high standard because he is the YES man for pet projects that drain hardworking taxpayers. Unfortunately , Wilmington , you deserve these bozos because you did not show up at the polls. The city of Wilmington has no true intentions of shoring up their basic services. They have their personal agendas at the forefront instead of making the welfare of the community their top priority. This local municipality mirrors that of our federal government with their Socialist Idol at the reigns. They have no concern for working class people despite their empty rhetoric. Judge men and women by their actions. Socialism is well entrenched and two classes of people are being established as we speak , the aristocrats and the serfs. Public workers , there are nothing left but crumbs for you.You are the serfs. Time for a new profession because your state in life will never improve because with the people that have been elected with misguided priorities are not concerned with your welfare. This city spends more than $ 16,000 per year calling upon consultants to guide their incompetent staff and letting the liberal city council travel to study how to be more foolish with taxpayer money. Let it burn and let them kill one another.

  • Mike R says:

    Pinching what are essentially pennies to lose valuable service and morale. Wilmington is one of the wealthiest cities in the State and the public safety get treated like this? City is willing to chip in hundreds of thousands on Buck Hardee field (including a $40,000 scoreboard), but anger everyone to save $16,000! I’d leave too!

  • Dean Karlson says:

    What a major slap in the face for all municiple workers! The City Council should be ashamed of themselves!!!

  • Guest, just another says:

    “Cheatham said the move would save the city about $16,000 a year”. Are you freaking kidding me?? Just 16,000? Didn’t the city have a 3mil surplus?
    So for the price of a parks truck, he’s going to give how many employees a reason to leave? Doesn’t sound like much, but how much does it cost the city just to hire one admin employee, one fireman, one parks rep, one officer, one mechanic, and any other one employee? Just to hire them includes training time, all the HR hours invested in paperwork and background, BLET for the officer, fire training, background checks, and uniforms? Didn’t WWAY recently run an article on how WPD is losing so many people? And this is your fix to make working for Wilmington look “appealing”?
    Great job Mr Cheatham. Way to “save” the city a couple of dollars. You seriously pulled a stupid move on this one. You just cost the city so much more than 16,000. Just plain stupid.

  • 8675309 says:

    Amen. The city officials care more about their own personal agendas than what would actually benefit the city, or their employees. At least now the employees know what the city actually thinks of them, as if they needed more proof.

  • 6545646 says:

    And you WONDER why your best officers are leaving as fast as they can?

    In the midst of the worst gang violence in memory, with threats published in the paper about gangbangers wanting to shoot officers, THIS is how the city reacts? After a deputy was shot last year? To save $16,000? That they will probably spend on new grass in some stupid park?

    Do you think officers will hesitate to engage these violent criminals knowing the city supports them even less than before if the officers are shot? I do. Why would any officer stick their neck out for a city that doesn’t care about them.

    This goes along with the city’s hope to get officers’ pay from where it is up to less than 10% of the regional average in 5 years. In 5 years the officers will hopefully maybe STILL be paid 10% less than they should be. Opposed to the near 30% below average they are now.

    Wonderful city. Great leadership.

  • GuestAghast says:

    If a police officer or firefighter is injured in the line of duty, how can you justify not giving them 100% support in return? This is not the kind of policy that I want from my city government.

    You found 3 million to buy the ballpark property and did not blink an eye about making that expenditure.

    Unbelievable. Sounds like a proposal from the law firm from Car Talk: Dewey Cheat’em, and Howe!

  • taxpayer says:

    “Cheatham told us he did not understand what we were asking about when we reached him by phone this morning. He also said he was too busy to do an interview.”

    Sterling Cheatham is an embarrassment to the taxpayers of the City of Wilmington. He drafted the proposal to cut the Worker’s Compensation benefit yet claims he didn’t understand the question? Really Sterling? This man refuses to talk to the media over and over and over. It’s time City Council grows a pair and replace him.

    Mr. Cheatham…your “cost savings” of $16,000 will result in the continued loss of qualified personnel which will cost the City 10x that amount in training costs for new hires. Penny-wise…and pound foolish.

  • tseug says:

    clams up but speaks volumes…..over and over and over again.

  • C B Lewis says:

    Cheatham has time to advise the council, but now can’t remember and don’t have time to talk about it. I am sure Cheatham and the council has not change there sick pay period.

  • and 9.68/hour says:

    The city changed the policy to do the right thing a few years ago to cover employees hurt while working for the citizens. Now Cheatem changes it back to possibly save $16,000.

  • Erlkoenig says:

    Well timed; after the election.

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