Editor’s note – This article was updated to now reflect that, due to new information from the city, three former Austin Police Department officers met the criteria for sick time payouts.
AUSTIN (KXAN) — A KXAN investigation into a fallen Austin Police Department detective’s family being denied sick pay prompted the City of Austin to decide to pay the full amount he earned — as well as sick pay for two other officers who left the department in good standing.
BACKGROUND: DENIED NO MORE: City to pay APD officers’ full sick time
The City of Austin denied the sick pay during APD’s nearly one-year period of no contract in 2018.
Here’s a list of former Austin police officers who will be getting the sick pay they were denied:
- Detective Norman Bujanos: 623 hours
- Assistant Chief Frank Dixon: 800 hours
- Officer Antonius Vanboekhout: 0.61 hours
Chief Dixon, who is now the police chief in Denton, told KXAN the news is very surprising.
“I didn’t think it would happen,” he said. “For me, it was kind of a financially painful decision [to leave APD] because you spend 23 years plus working for a police department, and you’re being a good employee not taking sick time when you’re not really sick.”
Dixon said when he left the department, he asked if the money he was leaving behind could be put in a catastrophic fund to help his fellow police families in the future.
“I am very pleasantly surprised for the Bujanos family. I think it’s very important that we continue to take care of the men and women that choose this very noble profession,” said Dixon.
As for Norman, his wife Amy Bujanos was in tears when KXAN called her on FaceTime to break the news the city decided give her Norman’s earned sick pay in full, which she said amounts to around $29,000.
She said it could help pay for their daughter Jordyn’s college tuition.
“I think he would be really proud of me for pushing, and I think he would be upset with how the city was handling the whole thing,” she said.
The city is still crunching the numbers to figure out the exact sick pay dollar amounts for each individual officer.
How sick time works for Austin police
The Austin Police Association negotiates contracts with the city for its police officers, which includes benefits.
APA President Ken Casaday said officers are able to accrue sick days over the course of their careers because several years ago, police officers were taking weeks and months at a time off of work to burn their sick time.
According to Casaday, the city has to pay time-and-a-half to cover a position when a police officer calls in sick. On top of that, he said the department is already struggling to give the city the protection it needs.
“There’s an unwritten rule that you better be dying if you’re not at work,” said Casaday. “Because we are so short-staffed.”
Austin police officers accrue 6.08 hrs of sick time for every two weeks they work. The maximum the city will pay out is 1,700 hours, but many officers go beyond that.
The sick time pay out always comes up with each contract negotiation with the city. According to Casaday, Austin police officers can also get paid out for up to 400 hours of unused vacation time.