by Andrew Walden
How bad is the pension spiking problem in the Honolulu Police Department?
The HPD ‘Top 10 Earners’ list is an internal HPD document available to only the chief, deputy chiefs, and commanders responsible for finance and human resources. Selectively redacted by the anonymous sender, 'Top 10' lists covering calendar years 2017, 2018, and part of 2019, arrived in the Hawai’i Free Press mailbox over the weekend. This information has never before been made public.
The list shows swelling ‘Top 10’ salary amounts totaling:
Public employees who don’t make the upper echelons can still dramatically ‘spike’ their lifetime pension income with three years of excessive overtime. By creating and funding vacant positions, department heads obtain funds to cover the overtime. According to the Employee Retirement System website, Hawai’i public employees with a start date prior to July 1, 2012 have their final pension calculated on their top three years pay—including overtime. (Those who hire on later base pension on their top five years.)
A corporal and a sergeant made the top-ten list in both 2017 and 2018—then retired.
In 2017 five of the top ten earners worked directly under Ballard at Central Receiving which she commanded from 2013 until her promotion to Chief on October 31, 2017. (These are the only names not redacted by the anonymous sender.) Several have subsequently been promoted and no longer appear on the ‘Top 10’ list because the list excludes ranks of captain and above.
This may be particularly galling to HPD personnel who see Ballard now disciplining officers for COVID enforcement overtime violations. According to a November 10, 2020, HPD internal audit leaked to HNN, “49 officers logged between 130 and 198 hours of overtime during a five-week period, eight more said they clocked between 200 and 256 hours and two recorded more than 300 hours over the five weeks.” Four Pearl City officers are being criminally investigated for overtime theft during the HPD’s recent COVID enforcement patrols.
The author of a December 4, 2020, anonymous letter to the Police Commission states: “I write with concern of mismanagement of federal funds by the Office of Chief of Police. I am a ranking officer within the Command Staff at the Honolulu Police Department and represent a small group of commanders deeply concerned with whether the Chief of Police exercised proper fiscal controls, fund management, and an overall fiduciary duty to the Department, city, and community.”
The City Auditor’s annual Citizen-Centric Report (p166) (p174) shows HPD fiscal year overtime spending in millions:
- FY 2013 $20.32M Kealoha
- FY 2014 $19.15M Kealoha
- FY 2015 $19.42M Kealoha
- FY 2016 $21.55M Kealoha
- FY 2017 $23.60M Kealoha / Okimoto
- FY 2018 $27.67M Okimoto / Ballard
- FY 2019 $38.31M Ballard
The record shows an average overtime expense of $20.8M before Ballard -- then soaring rapidly in FY2018 and in FY2019. (Louis Kealoha was Chief until December 20, 2016 followed by Cary Okimoto as acting Chief until October 31, 2017.)
In FY 2019—the first full fiscal year of Ballard’s administration, HPD’s overtime expense is 184% of the 2013-17 Kealoha-Okimoto average. FY 2020 figures are not yet available.
The HPD ‘Top 10 Earners’ list shows one police corporal bringing in $255K in just nine months of 2019—this would equal $341K for the full 12 months.. Extended to the full 12 months, the average ‘Top 10 Earner’ would have brought in $250K in calendar year 2019.
The lowest ‘Top 10 Earner’ took in $170K in 2017. In 2018 one ‘officer’ – the lowest rank in HPD--earned $212K. According to the HPD website, base salary for an ‘officer’ ranges from $68K to $98K depending on years of service.
Only one officer appears on the list for all three years. This officer is also the only one on the list with credit for triple-digit arrests. Nineteen of the 30 officers on the ‘Top 10’ lists have 0-2 arrests per year.
One method to reform the department would involve enabling old-timers who went along with Kealoha’s corruption to get their ‘top-three’ and pension out—thus making room for new recruits at the lower end of the pay scales who could be trained differently.
Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard did not respond to a request for comment on this article.
PDF: HPD ‘Top 10 Earners’ Lists
CB 2020: Hawaii Salary Database 2020: We’re Kicking Off This Year’s Report With HPD (contains salary ranges only)