SHIRLEY -- Of the 20 items on the Annual Town Meeting warrant, the issue most talked about around town as likely to cause an upset came up in an unlikely form: Article 4, which asked voters to accept the Salary Classification Plan and FY2019 Wage Scale, as presented in a pair of appendixes. Embedded in one of them was a substantial salary hike for a police lieutenant's position.
Listed as Grade 11 on the scale, the projected annual salary for that job -- currently held by Lt. Alfreda Cromwell -- went from $65,212 to $77, 925, a $12,713 raise in under a year.
Selectman Enrico Cappucci explained why. When Cromwell was promoted after being reinstated last year, the salary for a veteran sergeant, whose position is one rung lower on the hierarchical ladder, was being negotiated, he said, and as it turned out, the sergeant's pay came in higher than that of his superior officer.
That inequity had to be corrected, Cappucci said.
Town Counsel pointed out that a new state law slated to debut in July might also color the picture, since it addresses fair wages based on gender. Cromwell is female. The sergeant is male.
Selectman Debra Flagg said it only makes sense that a lieutenant makes more than a sergeant, seniority issues aside. She compared the situation to that of a young, newly hired RN whose starting salary would be higher than for an LPN in the same hospital, on the job for 20 years.
Melissa Lynch reminded people what the vote was for. "You cannot ask someone with more responsibility and at a higher level than sergeant (to work for less pay) no matter when she was promoted," Lynch said. "We must pay what the position calls for...that's what we're voting on."
But resident Paul Wilson said it was too much, too soon. He favored waiting for the next Town Meeting to up the lieutenant's pay. Another resident made a similar argument, noting that it was a new position.
It isn't. Police Chief Samuel Santiago said the lieutenant's position has been on the books since 1997, and that two others have held it before Cromwell, including former police chief Greg Massak.
Cromwell's stormy history with the Shirley PD might account for angst over the pay raise now.
Amid allegations, counter-charges and public outcry supporting the officer, Former Police Chief Thomas Goulden demoted Cromwell from sergeant to patrol officer, then fired her, with the former Board of Selectmen backing his decision, two to one. The chief departed soon after and the two selectmen were later ousted in a recall election, after which the new board re-hired and promoted Cromwell.
Perhaps the most appealing argument in favor of voting yes,however, was generic rather than specific. Personnel Board Chairman Paul Przybyla noted that Article 4 wasn't only about a single salary line but included the entire pay schedule and every position on the new Wage and Salary Scale. "It puzzles me why this upgrade is in this article," he said. If anyone feels strongly on this one issue, (and votes no for that reason) the whole thing goes down," he said. "It affects them all."
The motion passed by majority vote, with one no.