Monroe City Council members vote no to Chief's hefty bonus



MONROE, N.C. - Monroe City Council members denied a performance bonus to a decorated local police chief in a controversial vote.

Tuesday night, four City Council members voted in a majority to deny the $3,000 bonus for Monroe Police Chief Debra Duncan.

Duncan, who has been with the department for six years of her 33-year-career, had been praised in the past for her achievements on the job, including getting the department nationally accredited with police standards agency CALEA.

Duncan was eligible for retirement last year, but chose instead to remain at the department's helm at city officials' request -- despite the fact that she would have made more money annually in retirement.

Still, City Council members defended their decision to deny the performance bonus, telling Eyewitness News they were simply following Monroe City Manager Wayne Herron's recommendation.

"I thought what (Herron) did was fair and equitable, based on what he did for everyone else. Other employees might have asked, why don't I get one?" said councilman John Ashcraft, Jr.

Duncan will receive a one-time-cost-of-living raise in July, along with the 450-plus other city employees. The percentage of each worker's raise will depend on their evaluations.

Councilman Freddie Gordon also voted against Duncan's bonus, along with the Mayor pro tem, Lynn Keziah, and Councilwoman Margaret Desio.

Gordon said the bonus didn't seem fair. "Since the economic downtown and slowdown in the economy, we've not had the opportunity to give our employees merit pay raises (since 2008)," Gordon said.

But Eyewitness News has learned from sources inside city government, that multiple individuals inside City Hall have received similar one-time performance bonuses during that time period.

The city manager's office declined comment Thursday, but promised to provide of list of the employees' names and their performance bonuses on Friday.

Monroe Mayor Bobby Kilgore was one of the "yes" votes in support of a bonus, and told Eyewitness News, "When we hired her, we charged her to get the department accredited. She did that in just six months. I thought she deserved the bonus. She's done a good job, and she's well-liked in the community."

Duncan declined an on-camera interview, but sent Eyewitness News the following statement:

"City Council routinely considers matters brought before them and makes decisions based on what they believe to be in the best interest of the city. My decision to remain as police chief with the city of Monroe has never been about the money. Police work is my passion and Monroe is my home. If it was about money, I would have retired last year and taken another job. I am very proud of the progress the police department has made during my tenure. At some point in the future, when I decide to retire, I will seek out other ways to serve the city of Monroe."