By Stefanie Jackson – The Town of Eastville has come under scrutiny for the level of police service that citizens are receiving in return for the police officer wages funded by taxpayers, as well as other administrative and financial questions.
During the public comment period of the Aug. 2 Eastville Town Council meeting, concerned citizen Stuart Oliver shared salary information on two town employees, Police Chief David Eder and Major Rob Stubbs, which he obtained from town staff via FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request.
About 10 other concerned citizens were in attendance, including three of Oliver’s family members and several Eastville residents and small-business owners.
Eastville’s current population is around 335, meaning Eder’s current annual salary of $93,000 costs about $274 per capita. He supervises four police officers.
Oliver noted that the Virginia Beach police chief receives an annual salary of $165,000 at a cost of 37 cents per capita and supervises more than 800 department staff members.
Eastville town staff provided hourly wages for the remaining positions included in Oliver’s FOIA request.
Stubbs receives $36.10 per hour, which would be an annual gross salary of more than $75,000, assuming a 40-hour work week.
However, town staff’s response to the FOIA request noted that Stubbs received $43,775 in overtime alone in 2019. Earning standard time-and-a-half overtime pay, Stubbs would have had to work nearly 70 hours a week to get that much money.
Oliver and others have voiced their disapproval of the manner in which Eastville police officers spend their time on duty.
According to Eder’s Aug. 2 police report, the Eastville Police Department responded to 16 calls for service last month and wrote more than 1,600 citations.
Eastville has received more than $2.5 million in revenue from police fines since July 2017, including more than $875,000 in fines collected within the last 12 months, Oliver said.
Police fines accounted for more than 70% of Eastville’s total income for fiscal year 2021.
“Some people think it’s great for town cops to stack up speeding tickets, but I’ve got news for you,” he said. “Dave Eder’s very thin blue line is not the last word in justice, or equity.”
Oliver has repeatedly criticized the Eastville Police Department because it keeps “banker’s hours” for responding to calls for service.
The Eastville Police Department does not provide 24/7 coverage; when its officers are off duty, calls for service are answered by the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office. Yet several Eastville police officers are clocking numerous hours of overtime.
In 2020, Stubbs received nearly $27,000 in overtime, plus about $72,000 in regular pay. Other significant overtime earners in 2020 included Officer Jerry Brady, who received more than $15,000 in overtime and $62,000 in regular pay, and Officer Linwood Christian, who received more than $18,000 in overtime and $60,000 in regular pay.
Each of Eastville’s five police officers also received a hazardous duty bonus in 2020. The bonuses ranged from approximately $900 to $4,900.
Eastville police officers spending so much time writing so many tickets isn’t a good look for the town in the eyes of out-of-state drivers, Oliver said.
“Their first and last impression of Eastville is of a speed trap … a low-brow money making scheme – the municipal equivalent of a massage parlor,” Oliver said.
Instead of “Serve and Protect,” the Eastville Police Department should adopt the motto “Observe and Collect,” he added.
Stubbs disagreed. “It’s a shame, nationally, that police departments are being attacked, with the Defund the Police (movement) and coming against police. It’s a real shame when it’s local people here in the neighborhoods that we try to … protect and serve and do our very best. The town employees work very hard. It’s particularly disgusting when they are attacked without true cause,” he said.
Oliver’s concerns were not limited to how much Eastville collects in police fines or spends on officer salaries.
He also pointed out the possible conflict of interest created by Eder serving both as Eastville’s police chief and town administrator. “This is obviously a troubling scenario with obvious opportunities for corruption,” Oliver said.
He scrutinized the town’s response to his FOIA requests, noting that he had to submit an additional request since the first response did not contain the specific information he had requested.
Oliver had asked to be notified if the cost to fulfill the FOIA request would exceed $100; however, he was not informed that the cost was nearly double until he received the data he requested.
Furthermore, the two FOIA requests produced two conflicting responses. For example, Eder’s salary in 2018 was first reported as $58,000 and then as $61,500 with a Christmas bonus of $1,850. The police chief’s salary in 2019 was reported first as $65,000 and then as nearly $73,000 with a Christmas bonus of $2,905.
The numbers didn’t add up. “So … were you deceptive then; or are you deceptive now; or are you just not very good at math?” Oliver asked town staff.
He mused at how quickly Eastville town employees, particularly Stubbs, have “advanced through the ranks” and received raises.
Stubbs was a corporal in 2018 and became a sergeant in 2019, a lieutenant in 2020, and a major in 2021. “At this rate he will soon make general,” Oliver said.
These promotions led to Stubbs receiving hourly raises of about 10% in 2019, 29% in 2020, and 10% in 2021.
Eder’s salary was $58,000 in 2018; he received raises of 12% in 2019, 35% in 2020, and 6% in 2021.
Eastville’s total income from police fines, including eSummons (which are processed electronically), were about $252,000 in FY 2018, then skyrocketed to $645,000 in FY 2019, increasing by more than 250%.
Police fine revenue increased almost 15% in FY 2020 and nearly 20% in FY 2021.
Oliver caused a disturbance during the public comment period when he argued with Mayor Jim Sturgis for banging the gavel and ending Oliver’s speaking time early.
Sturgis allowed Oliver to resume making his remarks later during the public comment period, which Oliver concluded by saying, “I’ll be glad to address other abuses at the next meeting. You will be pleased to know that you are my new hobby.”