SALINEVILLE-The mood became tense for a moment Tuesday during the Salineville Village Council meeting, following a discussion between Mayor Mary Smith and members of council about the purchase of time clocks for village employees.
Without council consent, Smith purchased three $200 time clocks to be used by all village employees, including the Salineville Police Department. She said her decision was based on witnessing an officer leaving work early and arriving to work late "on more than one occasion" and "more than one or two minutes early."
The mayor said she alerted Police Chief Terry McElroy, who told the mayor he was unaware of the situation. The officer, according to Smith, was made aware and the matter was dealt with.
Despite a general dislike of the idea, council members appeared more upset that Smith had not presented the plan to council before making the $600 purchase.
The village has been short on finances in recent years and several council members said they believed they should have voted on the purchase or at least been consulted before the purchase was made.
"You don't have the power to buy anything," said councilman Tom Hayes.
Smith disagreed, saying she was allotted money by the village fiscal and finance committees for projects such as this.
"What's council going to do if you do everything on your own?" continued a visibly-upset Hayes.
The mayor responded that she did not "do it on her own" and she was only trying to "alleviate a problem."
The remainder of her explanation was interrupted by Hayes, who told the mayor the decision should have come before council. "Council makes decisions not the mayor," he said.
Council member Sally Keating defended Smith's decision, citing one of the mayor's duties as overseeing the police department.
As mentioned, council, as a group, appeared to dislike the idea of making all village employees clock in and out.
"We tried time clocks with the street department and the police department before, and it was nothing but a headache," said council president Rick Beadle.
Hayes was the most outspoken, saying, "I punched a time clock for 30 years and I hated it for 30 years-it takes away one of your rights."
Hayes also contended that police could possibly be delayed in responding to emergencies if they are worried about being reprimanded for not clocking in. Smith countered that common sense would prevail in those kind of situations and explained that the village has an ordinance in place to keep officers from working more than 24 hours a week.
Due to this ordinance, officers who work more or less than their allotted hours one day have that time either added or subtracted from the next.
McElroy, when later reached for comment, explained that most police departments have a dispatcher at the station to keep track of the officers' comings and goings. However, he said, Salineville "does not have that luxury."
The chief also explained that officers often put in "more time than is claimed" due to responding to late calls, and filing reports. According to McElroy, the problem with the time clock system would be that officers will have to claim all the formerly unclaimed overtime and be paid for it.
He explained that, as a part-time department, his officers will have to subtract that overtime from the next work day. Subtracting time from officer's workdays will leave the department without an officer at times when one would usually be out on patrol, he said.
"Am I against it? No, it makes my job easier to keep track of what time they are working," said McElroy."Am I for it? No, I am not due to the fact they (officers) will claim all the time they get, and yes, it could delay an officer from responding to an emergency."
Keating suggested employees be given some leeway for several instances should they be late to work before being reprimanded.
"You never know what somebody is going to run into coming down the road to go to work," said Keating, citing her own experience working in a factory.