Adjustments have been made regarding how much money the city of Conway did not pay its police officers and firefighters after settlement that was reached in April.
The Conway City Council gave Mayor Bart Castleberry the OK in a special-called meeting April 22 to move forward in a settlement regarding a class-action lawsuit that was filed against the city in 2012. Castleberry inherited the case when he was voted in as mayor in 2016.
The settlement previously reached would have paid out $1.15 million to nearly 130 current and former Conway police officers and firefighters.
Attorneys representing the city’s officers and firefighters obtained an expert economist who “undertook an additional analysis to confirm or refute the initial computations” of the class, according to a modified damages calculation notice filed Friday in Faulkner County Circuit Court.
Attorneys representing local officers and firefighters who allege they did not receive pay raises they were promised were tasked with inquiring from the entire class how much money in unpaid wages was owed.
The lawsuit stems from a Conway City Council-approved quarter-cent (0.25%) sales tax that was to be used “exclusively to the salaries of the employees of the City of Conway,” according to the ballot resolution that was passed by Conway voters in August 2001.
Employees allege they did not receive money they were promise, and the city ultimately agreed as such by settling the case monetarily.
The formal complaint regarding the unpaid money was filed in 2012, and in December 2015, Circuit Judge Troy B. Braswell Jr. gave the green light for the case to move forward as a class-action lawsuit. During the 2015 hearing, Braswell also struck down the plaintiffs’ arguments that money was illegally spend on the city’s behalf for other purposes rather than improving police and firefighters’ pay. The certified class includes police and fire department employees that were employed with the city between Dec. 1, 2001, and Dec. 31, 2012.
Upon verifying the amounts of money owed to the class, attorneys learned the city owes slightly less than previously settled.
“In most cases, the numbers shown on the original charts were correct, but in some events adjustment were made to the unpaid wages suffered by individual Class Members,” the notice filed Friday by attorney Marcus Bozeman reads in part. “In addition, during these subsequent investigations, it became apparent that a small number of persons appearing on the charts did not, in fact, suffer any unpaid wages under the allocation plan approved by the Court. Likewise, Class Counsel learned that a similar number of persons who had not been listed on charts did, indeed, suffer recoverable unpaid wages during the Class Period.”
The settlement directly affects 129 former and current Conway police and firefighters.
Following recent revisions, 65 Conway officers are set to receive money in the settlement and 64 Conway firefighters will be paid.
The amounts owed to each current and former employee vary.
The “Class Period” covers 2010, 2011 and 2012. Following recent adjustments, the city owes $1,021,422 in unpaid wages. Originally, the unpaid wages were calculated at $1,030,113.
Class members are expected to receive payment in October.
Money in the settlement will come from both the city and the Arkansas Municipal League. The city of Conway will pay $1 million of the settlement, and the remaining $150,000 will be covered by the Arkansas Municipal League. The settlement covers unpaid wages and other court costs associated with the case.
Conway City Attorney Chuck Clawson has said the settlement would be paid “all in one lump sum.”
Officials have said they are pleased to work to resolve this issue with the city’s police and firefighters.
“Though the recession did not allow for the city to provide raises in 2010 through 2012, the city is pleased that it can now resolve this litigation in a way that benefits uniformed employees who protect the citizens of the City of Conway,” officials said. “The City of Conway and the Arkansas Municipal League will provide funds, pending court approval, to be distributed to class members and their attorneys.”
A final fairness hearing is set for Sept. 5 before Judge Braswell “to determine whether the settlement agreement and the settlement should receive final approval.”
Members of the class who wish to opt out of the settlement must withdraw by Aug. 15.