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By Andria Simmons
Atlanta Journal-Constitution

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. - Gwinnett County says it is not legally bound to correct pay inequities that have some police sergeants earning $5,000 a year less than their peers, according to its response to a local police union lawsuit.
Differences in pay existed before a new 12-step pay grade was implemented in January 2007, the county's answer to the lawsuit said. The differences carried over when the new system was put in place.
The newest filing says Gwinnett is not obligated to address the disparities because the pay system is a "discretionary guideline." The pay plan is subject to "interpretation, amendment and modification" without notice, the filing states.
The county asked the judge to dismiss the local chapter of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers (IBPO) lawsuit, which was filed in Gwinnett County Superior Court on Oct. 6.
The lawsuit argues that police sergeants and lieutenants should be paid based on their rank and years of service. It states that the county already has fixed a similar problem for lieutenants.
Gwinnett's rebuttal does say that "isolated differences in pay between lieutenants which had arisen over time" were addressed, and the pay rate of sergeants was not.
Gwinnett police Sgt. J.P. Wilbanks questioned why lieutenants were treated differently than sergeants who are ranked a step below them in the department's hierarchy. There are 98 sergeants in the Gwinnett County Police Department, 13 of whom are represented in the IBPO the lawsuit.
"Why was the department's management treated so much better than the rest of us?" Wilbanks said. "They are subject to the same 2007 step plan ... and the county was under no obligation to fix their pay either. Yet the county not only gave them significant pay raises to correct inequities, but provided some retroactive back pay as well."
Scott Fuller and Karen Thomas, attorneys for Gwinnett County, did not return a call seeking comment Monday afternoon.

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