Council, mayor appear to be in agreement on police chief’s pay

BREMERTON — It appears the Bremerton City Council has agreed on contract terms to formally appoint interim Chief James Burchett to the top job.

At a council study session on July 11, the council discussed the terms with Mayor Greg Wheeler and city attorney Robert Lubovich. While the council did not necessarily tip its hand on a final vote — which is expected to take place at the next public meeting on July 18 — council members have previously voiced support for Burchett to become chief; they only disagreed on compensation.

The terms set forth in the contract, which was included in the meeting’s agenda packet, states that Burchett will be paid approximately $159,649. Burchett currently receives the pay rate for a police captain, plus the five percent for serving as interim chief.

Burchett would also retain his current benefits package as he moves to chief, which is an at-will position that serves at the pleasure of the mayor. The chief position is exempt and is not included under civil service rules.

“He comes out with what he has today,” Lubovich said. “Status quo.”

Last month at a study session meeting, Wheeler had proposed raising Burchett’s pay by approximately $16,000, but the council did not support such a move at that time, citing the recently completed payscale for city jobs that may have required them to adjust other salaries in order to maintain balance if they were to give Burchett that raise as chief.

Several council members expressed regret as to how the situation played out and took the opportunity at the July 10 meeting to reiterate their support for both Burchett and the police department.

“I want to support the chief. This is a really great time for him, and a really great time for our city,” councilor Kevin Gorman said.

Burchett has been with the Bremerton Police Department since 1992 and became captain in 2006. The previous chief, Steve Strachan, stepped down at the end of 2017 to take the role of executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs. Burchett has been the interim chief in Bremerton since January.

— Mark Krulish is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at mkrulish@soundpublishing.com.

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