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A request by Toledo firefighters union Local 92 to open up a fact-finding meeting to the public has been turned down, and the union members are letting people know they're disappointed.
A billboard near North Erie Street and Washington Avenue downtown, which is owned by the union, reads "City rejecting public hearing/ Why/ Whatcha hiding."
"We all agreed that transparency is a good idea," said union Vice President Dan Desmond. "We have nothing to hide. We're public servants and we do our job very well, and we're proud of our profession."
Local 92 asked the city Jan. 31 to invite its rank-and-file members, the media, and the public to the meeting set for Feb. 16 to mediate a contract dispute. The Bell administration is pushing for concessions, including increases in employee contributions to health-care and pensions, which Local 92 opposes.
"Local 92 believes the fact-finding proceedings should be open to the public and would expect the administration to agree, given its support of Issue 2, which called for public hearings," the union's vice-president, Dan Desmond, wrote in a letter to Deputy Mayor Steve Herwat. "The rank-and-file and public are entitled to full disclosure to learn just how much, or little, this administration values its firefighters."
But city spokesman Jen Sorgenfrei said fact-finding is always held in private. Opening it to the public would be against the law, she said.
"Under the Ohio Revised Code and the Ohio Administrative Code, union negotiations are between the two negotiating parties and fact-finding is not a public process," she said. "Ohioans in November said they wanted to uphold the current collective bargaining law as it stands. We're going to follow the wishes of the voters."
Union president Wayne Hartford said the concessions the city seeks would amount to a 14.5 percent pay cut for firefighters. He said the union believes such cuts are unnecessary because the city's budget situation is improving.
The union has about 490 members.