The City’s paycheck fiasco saw Mayor and Controller stay on top of crisis situation to see that it won’t happen again

Last month’s paycheck fiasco was alarming that a city the size of Houston, Texas was unable to accurately pay around 2,700 public servants (all HPD) on time.

There is plenty of blame to go around regarding this mess, but the elected city controller, Chris Brown, and the duly elected mayor, Sylvester Turner, are not to blame.  Both of these officials stayed on top of the issue while many figured out a way to get persons paid as quickly and accurately as possible.

Both officials are investigating where the problem lies and both also pledged to make sure it never happens again.  We are appreciative for that!

This fiasco was also no fault of the HPOU, but the HPOU agreed to assist with getting the paychecks out.  I want to thank HPOU 1st Vice President Doug Griffith, Treasurer Tim Butler and Administrative Assistant Lisa Marino for leading the charge to make sure paychecks were disbursed as quickly and efficiently as possible following the mess.

Board Members Chad Crawford, Kawanski Nichols and Rhonda Williams along with others on staff at the HPOU also assisted in this endeavor.  Thanks also to 2nd Vice President Joe Gamaldi for keeping everyone updated on social media and through the HPD App which can be downloaded through Google or Apple.

Acting Police Chief Martha Montalvo was very complimentary of the way the HPOU stepped up and assisted in getting our officers paid.  She also stayed on top of this issue every step of the way until the paychecks were delivered.

We were inundated with calls about overdraft fees and bounced checks.  This issue highlighted the number of officers we have who live check to check.  I am not sure why I am surprised by this as I frequently tell those opposed to our pensions that many have to live paycheck to paycheck and could not survive retirement with a 401K and experience a major downturn in the market.  Nevertheless, I was alarmed by the number and saddened by it.

Thanks also goes to the Houston Police Federal Credit Union for working with our members who bank there to assist with any overdraft fees.  Specifically, I want to thank HPFCU President Ayn Talley, who answered my call immediately and assured me that she would fully assist our members who incurred any costs associated with the fiasco by the city, NOT THE CREDIT UNION.  Her staff dealt with many upset members who incorrectly thought the problem was with the credit union.

The Legislative Session

The next session of the Texas Legislature does not formally begin for another eight months, but that does not mean work is not taking place in Austin.  Mark Clark and I, along with the trustees from the Houston Police Officers’ Pension System have been regularly attending hearings in Austin regarding pensions and criminal justice.

We also have been attending fundraisers with state representatives and senators as they gear up for their elections in November.  At each event we discuss the issues facing police officers in the next session and deliver a PAC check.  If you are not a PAC contributor, please consider signing up today.  Nearly every new cadet signs up for PAC and we urge you to do the same.  We recently had a veteran officer come in and change his contribution from $5 monthly to $50 monthly!  Any amount is greatly appreciated.

As stated in several previous columns, the HPOU and HPOPS will continue working together to protect our earned pensions and will keep you updated in future columns and via emails.  If you are not receiving emails from the HPOU, then we do not have your correct email address.

Please contact the HPOU and update your email address if you want to receive emails from us.  And, by the way – as a reminder – we never sell email addresses to anyone.

A Smile Goes a Long Way

Thanks to all those officers who worked the NCAA Final Four and kept this city safe, and the hundreds of thousands of visitors to our city safe.

I spoke with an individual at one of the functions and he commented on the demeanor of the officers working the events.  I received no comments about unprofessional conduct, but did receive a comment that bothered me.  The gentleman told me about seeing a few officers greeting the visitors, smiling and nodding, and even handing out junior police stickers to some of the young guests.  However, I was also advised that many officers clearly did not want to be there and never smiled at anyone.

While these events are no place to let your guard down, your actions are noticed by visitors and a smile, wave or nod can go a long way with improving relations between the police and the public.  Who knows, a simple smile may get one to vote YES to lift the property cap for public safety or vote YES for a public safety fee!

There’s a great book out there that says, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.” It’s still a rule as good as gold.