KENSINGTON -- A hefty pay raise given the police chief of this unincorporated community of just over 5,000 residents is the latest issue to divide its elected board.
The board, which members say is split 3-2 on almost every issue it faces, recently lifted police Chief Greg Harman's annual salary from $134,000 to $148,000 beginning July 1, drawing a backlash from opponents that is expected to be revived at Thursday's meeting.
Harman also received a one-time merit increase and cost-of-living adjustment of $16,754, according to Charles Toombs, president of the Kensington Police Protection and Community Services District and part of the three-member majority.
Harman said he had not had a pay increase since 2008.
Harman, who has been police chief for five years and serves as the district's general manager, was also given a two-year contract extension.
Toombs and fellow board members Tony Lloyd and Linda Lipscomb voted for the raise and cost-of-living adjustment. Mari Metcalf and Cathie Kosel voted no, and have since been vocal in their opposition.
Metcalf said Toombs appointed Lloyd and Lipscomb as a subcommittee to make a recommendation about Harman's pay but that she and Kosel were not able to see the report until the July 12 board meeting when the raise came up for a vote.
"They were set on giving him an increase, and it was not up for discussion and not up for debate," Metcalf said.
Metcalf said she and Kosel
Metcalf said Toombs needed four votes of the board to extend the meeting, according to its policies and procedures manual, and he got only three.
"There was a definite majority of people at that meeting that wanted that vote delayed," Metcalf said. "The vote that we took was completely invalid because it was past the time allowed."
Toombs said adequate time was allowed for board members and the public to have their say at the meeting before the vote was taken. He also said that Lloyd and Lipscomb did a thorough job of researching comparable salaries for other Bay Area police chiefs, and Harman's raise places him about in the middle of the range.
Toombs said the raise was also based on the chief's performance evaluation and that Kosel and Metcalf were allowed input along with other board members.
"The total (pay) package we gave him was reasonable, based on comparable salaries," Toombs said. "The board majority feels he does a great job, and we're concerned about losing him (to a better offer)."
Metcalf disputed the idea that comparing Kensington to other police departments for salary purposes has any merit.
"This is a community where there aren't many violent crimes," she said. "You look at the police blotter, and you see calls for a raccoon in the backyard or a person who looks unfamiliar walking down the street."
Disputes have boiled over beyond the board meetings themselves.
Kosel, who served as mayor of El Cerrito for two terms before returning to Kensington, where she grew up, said the conflict over the chief's pay is the latest issue in a long-running battle she's had with the board majority and the police.
Kosel alleges that two police officers filed a false complaint of indecent exposure against her that has since been dropped.
Harman denied that there were any allegations of indecent exposure, but there was an investigation into a possible allegation of sexual harassment.
Toombs would only say that Kosel refused to participate in the investigation.
"I told them if you want to have an investigation, you give me the charges in writing and I and my attorney will respond in writing," Kosel said.
Kosel also alleges that Harman improperly used a district credit card to pay for airplane tickets for his wife.
Toombs said the department did an internal investigation of the credit card claims that cleared Harman of any wrongdoing.
"I appreciate the support I have gotten from the board and the community," Harman said, in response to the controversy. "I enjoy working here and want to continue working here."
The debate over the chief's salary may be revived at the board's next scheduled meeting Thursday now that an email campaign has been launched to inform residents about the pay package.
The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at the Community Center, 59 Arlington Ave.
The Kensington Police Protection and Community Services District will meet at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Kensington Community Center, 59 Arlington Ave.