BETHEL – Instead of suing Bethel to recoup three years of on-call back wages, a Bethel police officer has accepted a settlement agreement for $27,000, according to a Monday afternoon news briefing from Town Manager Scott Cole.

On Friday, Lt. Shayne R. White, who is in his fourth year as a Bethel officer, received the gross wages, less taxes.

“This money represents compensation for a significant number of hours (that) the officer had been placed in (in) an on-call status by the Bethel police chief during the past three years,” Cole stated in the report.

Cole said that during a private meeting this month among himself, White and a selectman, they decided on $27,000 as the amount to be paid. That money, Cole added, was taken from this year’s police department budget.

“We’re not appropriating additional funds. We have one vacancy now in the Police Department and available funds for that position, combined with new scheduling strategies, freed up the money to be paid,” Cole said by phone Monday afternoon.

That vacancy, which has reduced Bethel’s four-man department, including the chief, to a three-man unit, was created when Patrolman T.J. Reese resigned to take a job with the Bridgton Police Department.

After an executive session on the back-wages matter at the end of the selectmen’s Feb. 11 meeting, selectmen authorized the settlement, which was finalized by White and Cole on Feb. 19.

White’s acceptance of the agreement bans him from pursuing a formal claim against Bethel under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

“It is the town’s position that a formal claim, if successful, would have resulted in a much larger payment of wages to the employee,” Cole said.

Contacted Monday afternoon by phone at home in Albany Township, police Chief Alan Carr said he had no comment. Instead, he deferred comment to Cole, who hired Carr as chief on April 2, 2004.

White is away this week and unavailable for comment.

Due to the settlement, overall management and scheduling practices of the Police Department under Carr are being reviewed by Cole.

“The chief had put his second-in-command (White) on an on-call status. I wasn’t aware of the level of expectations the chief had for on-call status, but this past fall, the lieutenant ultimately raised the issue and felt he was entitled to back pay. … That expectation was to be ready to roll at a moment’s notice. That’s my understanding of orders issued by the police chief over the past several years,” Cole said.

Until a fourth patrolman is added, Cole said Carr will use reserve officers to fill the scheduling void.

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