ONLY ON 3: City manager addresses low morale at WPD

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Submitted: Fri, 03/21/2014 - 3:33am
Updated: Fri, 03/21/2014 - 12:10pm

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A Wilmington Police survey shows many employees are not happy with their job.

So today we took those concerns to the city’s top administrator.

Nearly 85 percent of those who took the survey said morale was low or very low. The reasons: pay and benefits, fairness and communication.

“I don’t call them problems, I call them opportunities of areas we need to focus on,” City Manager Sterling Cheatham said.

Among the biggest complaints from WPD staff were issues with the command staff. Cheatham says Chief Ralph Evangelous is doing a great job despite the negative survey results, but he did have one suggestion for the leader of the police department

“I think one of the things that I wish he would be is a little bit more patient with me and with others,” Cheatham says.

An area Cheatham says is number one as work starts on next year’s budget is pay.

“As a citizen of the community and as an employee I understand how sensitive and important pay is,” he said.

But Cheatham says better pay means cuts have to be made somewhere.

“We’re looking at every program and every service we offer to evaluate their relative importance going into the budget this year,” Cheatham said. “We’re going to have to make some tough choices. It’s a matter of decision making. You have to make tough choices.”

We asked Cheatham if he would be willing to make some sacrifices of his own to improve pay, like giving up some of his own salary.

“If we could fix the problem by the waving of a wand that magical, I certainly would be interested in doing it,” he said. “But the problem is a lot more involved than that.”

Cheatham says he also hopes to increase pay to keep up with other cities. It’s something he says he will recommend when he presents next year’s budget.


  • ChefnSurf says:

    - “I don’t call them problems, I call them opportunities” … (So what if everyone else calls them problems, I don’t have to, so there!)

    – “Evangelous is doing a great job despite the negative survey results” … (Why start paying attention to those silly surveys now? We never have before, regardless of what they show.)

    – “I wish he would be is a little bit more patient with me” … (Yea, like until he retires or resigns or whatever.)

    – “as an employee I understand how sensitive and important pay is,” … (I know how important my own salary is but City Council’s got my back on this one just like I cover their behinds on other stuff. The rest of you fools are on your own!)

    – “better pay means cuts have to be made somewhere” … (Not that that’s going to effect me, suckers!)

    – “We’re going to have to make some tough choices. It’s a matter of decision making.” … (Yea right, tough choices like blowing almost a half a million dollars over the last few years on surveys so we didn’t have to make any decisions ourselves if we didn’t feel like it.)

    – “if he would be willing to make some sacrifices of his own to improve pay, like giving up some of his own salary” … (OK, OK, just respond with something that’s totally nonsensical on this one, and for God’s sake, try not to laugh!)

    City Council, Sterling Cheatham and yes, Chief Evangelous too: I don’t call them problems, I call them opportunities of areas we need to focus on. What I do call a problem is voter apathy.

  • 9743 says:

    I don’t see what firemen and cops are whining about, they, just like teachers knew what the pay rate/scale was before they accepted the job so don’t blame Mr. Cheatham. Why take the job and complain later?

  • Guest7969 says:

    sounds like answers STRAIGHT from a politician! Basically, I know what the report says…but IDGAF

  • PublicAvenger says:

    Nearly 85 percent of those who took the survey said morale was low or very low………….

    What about the ones who didn’t respond ? If 50% did not respond, one would assume they are mostly satisfied. And I would like to see a copy of the questions.

  • retardoyoung says:

    I am friends with many officers. They have made it clear that they intend on making their feelings known at the April council meeting prior to the Azealea Festival.

    They also plan on calling in sick the morning of the parade, to publicly ensure pure chaos. Good for them!

    I support the WFD and WPD with their plight.

  • guest 1234 says:

    If you’re a citizen of Wilm, you aught to be very concerned about this. No matter how you feel about city issues, or police for that matter, you need to be VERY concerned.

    A major exodus of officers. Doesn’t sound like much to you, until you realize that with each officer there are YEARS of experience walking out the door, to be replaced with often NEW officers with no experience.

    Second. The experienced officers should now be expected to be extremely cautious, no benefit to give that next measure for you or anyone else except themselves, each other, or family. Why bother?

    Third. It should be expected than under this political environment, the current “support structure” by command staff, that an officer who may be involved in any action that would bring any attention on himself is not worth it. This should definitely worry you as a citizen.

    You get what you pay for. You can demand all day long, but pretty soon you’ll just have one of two types driving around: those with enough experience that self preservation is number one, and those with no experience and turned loose on the city. How is cheatham going to put a price on this? Good luck.

  • Jim Graf says:

    How about asking why the city manager needs a $6000.00 office chair. Theres safety equipment broken or missing but can’t be replaced or fixed due to “no funding”. We train these police and firefighters to a high level then drive them off because the promise of a legitimate pay raise coming doesn’t come. How much money is wasted training and outfitting these individuals just to have another department benefit. Do your jobs and take care of your public safety employees. These employees do great things with so very little.

  • WPD TRUE N ' BLUE says:

    Cheatham sounded like a team’s coach making excuses for a win less season trying to save his job, while trying to convince you that his quarter back that leads the league in interceptions is doing a great job. Hey you two’s too late. Both of you are going to be fired. Look at the officer’s history. When you no longer support us, we rally and get rid of the Chief, and city manager if needed. We Always prevail. We should have pushed to get rid of Cheatham when we ousted Cease. Cheatam should be smart enough to see this coming, but then again, one only has to look at his historical decisions to realize that answer. So I’m going to help both out with a little advice. Resign with dignity, don’t make the mistake of forcing us to have you fired with utter disgrace.

  • miller says:

    Here are some cuts that would save the city THOUSANDS!
    1. Cop Camp-a glorified baby sitting service for inner city kids

    2. Santa Cop-a police officer operation of an entitlement program for…again, inner city kids

    3. Midnight Basketball-aka Ghetto Hoops- great idea for gang bangers and thugs to play a little ball

    Activists for these programs say they help reach out to…yea, know it, inner city kids. But lets look a the truth, these hug a thug programs DON’T work. All the statistics show it and just watching the news PROVES it!
    And John Q Public, in case you didn’t know…you are paying the officer’s salaries to run these programs, instead of protecting you and on the street.

  • Guest2020 says:

    What a raving idiot! They can buy land for a park. They can sell land for well below the market value. They can spend money on this study and that study. They can build a convention center that the people voted against numerous times, but they cannot give a raise to the men and women in uniform who put their lives on the line every day when they go to work.

    Your choices stink.

  • Fed Up says:

    And let’s not forget that the City had a budget surplus of $6 million last year from the savings created by THE EMPLOYEES from their health insurance. This $6 million was not created by the actions of the City Manager, the Mayor, City Council, or any Department Head, but was created by the direct actions of THE EMPLOYEES!!! Let me say that again, the $6 million surplus was created by THE EMPLOYEES, who continue to be vilified as “greedy” government employees.

    With approximately 1,000 employees, that means that each employee was responsible for an average savings to the City of $6,000, and it means that our “greedy” employees made the sacrifices necessary to save the taxpayers $6 million!!! How many of us can say that we saved our employer $6,000 last year? And if so, would most employers not reward their employees for doing so? But instead of using even a small percentage of this surplus to reward the very employees who created it (either in the form of reduced insurance premiums, improved wages, etc.), the City’s leadership choose to put this surplus back into this year’s general fund in order to pay for more useless items. For example, at an average salary of $35,000, this surplus could have funded a 5% raise for all City employees for the next 3 and a half years!!! That’s a raise created by THE EMPLOYEES with NO need to cut services or raise taxes for the next 3 and a half years!!!

    Finally, let’s stop be intellectually dishonest and comparing our hardworking City of Wilmington employees with federal employees, union employees in major cities, and union employees in the private sector as “greedy” employees who do not care about their City and their neighbors. Let’s start to realize that our underpaid City employees are not only dedicated to keeping us safe from crime, fires, and natural disasters, and not only dedicated to insuring that our trash is collected, our water is safe to drink, and our neighborhood streets and parks are cleaned and well-maintained, but that they are also dedicated to helping their neighbors save $6 million, because they truly care about their community, and we should do everything possible to reward them for this dedication!!! And if the time has come to get rid of those who do not recognize this simple fact, then let’s do what is right by those employees who strive to do right by us, and get rid of those in the leadership positions who only care about their own truly “greedy” interests.

  • GuessT says:

    As much as it feels good to rant to a media source there is never actually going to be change until the employees of the city (specifically police and fire) band together and say enough is enough. Power is in numbers! All of the department directors all making nice salaries and can be fired by the City Manager in a heartbeat. Of course they are only going to make so much noise. Would you put your job on the line for someone else? Doubt it?

    Fire and Police need to stand together as civil service protected employees. Send a message so loud that it can longer be ignored.

  • MG says:

    The City Manager displayed terrible management practice in his remarks. To have a department report an 85 percent dissatisfaction rate with their job indicates a problem, no matter how he spins it.

    After reading his remarks, it appears the city manager would fit right in being elected to Congress.

  • SurfCityTom says:

    it will not change until the apathetic city voters get out to the polls and elect change.

    Those elected weasels know the City voters merely rant on this site and others. When it comes time to support a genuine candidate who will work hard to make a difference, that’s another story. And support means both with votes and money.

    Property owners, who do not reside in the city, can do nothing but grin, bear it, and pay taxes.

  • Guest2020 says:

    It’s frustrating to sit here and watch the people of Wilmington allow this to keep happening. If the voters are too pathetic to even go to the polls, they can’t really be expected to do anything else. It’s a shame.

  • Erlkoenig says:

    Cut Cheathem’s pay.

  • Not Fooled says:

    The City Manager is just as clueless as the Chief is. I love how he avoided the question about taking a pay cut.. Snatch a knot in your command staff Ralph …How many complaints do you have to get until you earn your pay and get control of it? It’s sad when HR knows certain staff members only because of grievances filed against them..

  • common sense says:

    Why do cuts have to be made, when last year the city put $6 MILLION DOLLARS into a savings account. Why are they trying to nickle and dime employee benefits and salary when they are posting such huge surpluses??

  • guest 1234 says:

    Opportunities??? If he seriously believes these issues are “opportunities” then he is a complete FAILURE! If these are opportunities, when will he choose to “focus” on them? If WPD is at the point that the moral and exodus of officers is regularly in the news, he is WAY past the point of putting any focus on this.

    He wants the chief to be patient with him? That sounds like the chief is doing his job.

    “Cheatham says he also hopes to increase pay” How does that old saying go, “you can mess in one hand, and hope in the other…..

  • 666 says:

    The department has been very patient, Mr. Cheatem.

    Too patient.

    In 2007 the city was told by a company (that the city paid thousands of dollars) how to fix the pay problem. The city did not.

    In 2008, the city gave a slight raise to many people. In 2009 the city gave no raises, but increased insurance premiums. Again in 2010. And they dropped 4.5% of the 401k contribution for the cops. No raise in 2011, insurance premiums went up. In 2012 there was a 2% raise or so, that was negated by another raise in insurance premiums. In 2013 there was a 2-4% raise, which left us bringing home LESS than we did in 2008, after a 300%+ increase in insurance premiums during the time period. They did start paying the 4.5% into the 401ks again, finally.

    During that time several new policies went into effect that hurt the employees financially. Tweaks to save the city a penny here, a penny there. But that screwed the employees.

    Your cops are 28% below the market average. You say that you want to bring them up to 10% BELOW the market average. Your firefighters are worse than that.

    That is shameful.

    How much do you make, Mr. Cheatem? You make $173,680. ONE HUNDRED SEVENTY-THREE, SIX HUNDRED EIGHTY DOLLARS A YEAR. Before any perks.

    Your starting fireman makes $28,000. Your starting cop makes $34,000. And if they started in 2008 THEY STILL MAKE ALMOST EXACTLY THAT.

    In fact, because of their experience, a 6 year cop from somewhere else comes in making several more thousand dollars than a 6 year cop already here.

    Sure, you have a college degree. So do most of your cops. That gets them a whopping extra $2,000 a year.

    Family insurance cost $6,000 a year. That’s the cheap plan, that makes them pay the first $4,000 out of pocket. So that fireman with a family who has given 6 years of his life to the city really makes $22,000 before taxes. He qualifies for food stamps. That cop with 6 years on the job is now really making $28,000 a year, before taxes, working 12 hour night shifts in one of the most dangerous cities in the state. And that’s before they pay another $4,000 in medical bills before their insurance even kicks in.

    And the city is self-insured. So it’s not an insurance company telling you how much to charge us. It’s the city protecting it’s interests and making their employees cover all the cost, when it could provide a benefit and cover a bit of it.

    And they have to worry about the city doing the “minimum required by the law” if they get hurt. 66% of $22,000 a year for the firemen…$14,250 for that fireman, $18,480 for the cop.

    A firefighter that gets hurt on the job will make less in a year than what YOU MAKE IN A MONTH.

    How many millions of dollars have you spent on parks and recreation during that time? Millions and millions and millions. How many millions were you ready to spend on a baseball stadium? And you can’t get your city workers a damn respectful raise without increasing insurance premiums? Yet you can buy any green patch in the city the moment it becomes available? And you can re-turf stadiums? Soccer fields that aren’t in the city? Build a bike path?

    And let’s not even talk about that stupid convention center.

    You’ve had your opportunity. You have shown, along with your HR trolls, quite spectacularly, that you do not care for the officers and firefighters putting their lives on the line. They do not do the same job as the rest of the city, and do not need to be paid in the same manner.

    To you, knowing that about 4 experienced officers are leaving every month likely makes you happy, since you know the new officers will be making much less money, saving the city even more, making you look better. But to us, having about 50% of the number of officers we are supposed to have working every night out on the streets, it means when we need help it might not be there. It means that when someone calls 911 for a real emergency there may not be anyone to come for several minutes. It means that the detective division has less detectives working cases than 1999. It means that we are working harder than before for less money, which makes us not want to do a damn thing except keep each other safe.

    Last year this area had more officer involved shootings than any other place in the entire state. Do you want mostly rookies working these dangerous streets? Or do you want to hire good people, give them good training, develop them into good leaders, and retain them so their training and experience isn’t wasted? So that the citizens get the best officers they can have? So that we promote good leaders rather than idiots?

    You say “I don’t call them problems, I call them opportunities of areas we need to focus on,”

    I think it’s time you focus on a new area. Geographically. The “problem” is quite clear to the rest of us.

    And that solution is not to cut the already meager benefits just to give us a raise. Both the benefits AND the pay need to be improved. Cops and firemen that qualify for foodstamps…that’s what we have now. That is a disgrace.

  • guest123123 says:

    Very well written I must say. If you are a poice officer or fireman yourself I would start redirecting your efforts elsewhere. When are you folks going to learn this never gets you anywhere. Start looking for other jobs in the city,county,state or federal government that will pay you more money based on your knowledge,skills and abilities. You have to understand that this happens all the time to government workers. You can either complain and keep working or see what else is out there. I worked for a state agency for 14 years and was not happy with my pay.I did my research and found another state job that paid me a 5% increase. Then when that job stopped giving out raises I resigned and started my own business.Please take control of your career and life and stop waiting for some bureacrat to change it for you.

  • Buck says:

    Is someone putting a gun to your head, forcing you to stay ? If you feel so abused and mistreated, after six years, why don’t you go to one of these places, that pay you the “Market Average” ? Instead of staying around here, griping. I know several ex-officers, who wish they could be back, and several highly qualified people, who can’t get their foot in the door.

    Don’t forget the most awful condition you work under. That your Dodge Charger is one year older then the guy who’s been here two years less then you, who has a newer one. It makes my heart bleed for you. Boo Hoo.

    By the way, it was the Police Chief, and the City Manager, who stuck their necks out, getting these take home cars for you. It cost over a million dollars, at first. Now the program is saving money, for the City, and providing a huge convenience for the cops.

    Sorry if your being a police officer, of firefighter, isn’t making you rich.

  • guesty says:

    If CHEATham is really concerned with morale, the best thing he could do to help is fire Evangelous and then resign.

  • jj says:

    The really problem is that the upper management with the City is just as bad and the upper management of the Police Dept. It is all about getting the priorities right and the City is way off there. Look at the money was wasted on the ball park and the convention center. Who would go to either in this town with the crime the way it is? This money could have been used to better pride for the City in pay and infrastructure. However, they (City Counsel) is more interested into buying property than protecting it. What was Cheatham’s last pay raise? I am sure it was more than all the other city employees.

    He is someone else that needs to be fired.

  • Tim says:

    How’ did this overpaid slug become city manager in the first place? He must be a card-carrying member of the NAACP and Democrat Party. Explains it all.

  • Collin johns says:

    take your concerns to a city council meeting and address the mayor he is so out of touch he thought that the City really wanted a baseball stadium when it was a 70 to 30 no graagainst the stadium you need to really address the mayor face to face on a regular basis so that you understand and he understands what your concerns are

  • DeputyDog says:

    We all here are begging any group that can do a survey.
    Please let us do one for the sheriff’s office! I am telling you if it can be done without being retaliated against.

    You all would be Shocked!! We so need a complete change here it’s Sad.

    We have had a 1% increase in pay in 4 years. But our upper command has gotten avg 16.5 to 21% increase over the same timespan!! That is just the begining.

    Give us a Survey please!!!!!!

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