Santa Rosa pays retired police chief $93,000 for unused sick time

February 18, 2020 in News by RBN Staff


Santa Rosa has agreed to pay its former police chief more than $90,000 as compensation for hundreds of hours of unused sick time accrued over his nearly three decades on the city force.

The $92,967.90 payment makes up for a legal error that inadvertently limited how much former chief Hank Schreeder was compensated when he retired last year, according to city documents.

The city attorney, Sue Gallagher, announced the settlement Tuesday during a City Council meeting.

The cashout does not affect Schreeder’s city pension. The same benefit — end-of-career payment for unused time off — is available to rank-and-file employees.

More often, departing city employees choose to funnel the bulk of those hours into a supplemental health care coverage account, an option that Schreeder also chose.

But he had so many hours of unused sick time — 1,940 — that he maxed out his deposits into that account, leaving 884 hours untouched.

The payment for those hours is intended to make up the difference. It does not cover 580 hours of Schreeder’s accrued but unused vacation time, which was split between the health care coverage account and a previous payment.

“It is and was intended to be a wash, that he’s made whole, not better or worse,” Gallagher said Thursday of the settlement, which she said will “give him the benefits of his contract in an alternative form.”

Schreeder worked at the Santa Rosa Police Department for 28 years. He was named acting chief in 2013 and was appointed chief on a permanent basis in 2015. He led the department through the 2017 firestorm and he retired in 2019. He receives a city pension of more than $200,000 per year.

Combined, Schreeder’s unused sick and vacation time totaled 2,520 hours, more than the 2,080 hours involved in a typical year of work.

City officials were not able to say Friday how much the city pays out each year to departing employees with accrued time off.

In an interview Thursday, the retired chief acknowledged he “probably” felt a little regret for not taking more time off while employed.

But, he said, it was always easy to rationalize working instead of taking a vacation.

“I never took time off, except for the birth of my kids, and when I had appendicitis,” Schreeder said. “To me, sick time was a insurance policy. If you don’t use it or abuse it, you end up with a huge excess of it.”

“If I was sick, I would certainly take the sick time,” he continued. “Knock on wood, I was healthy, and my family was healthy, so I didn’t have to.”

Schreeder, of Santa Rosa, has been doing some public-sector consulting work in other cities involving organizational development and personnel investigations while figuring out his next steps, he said.

“I’m still trying to be a part of the community,” he said.