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Published: Wednesday, 4/29/2009

Police, Toledo urged to deal

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

Mayoral candidate Keith Wilkowski Tuesday called on Mayor Carty Finkbeiner and the president of the police patrolmen's union to resume bargaining this week in hopes of averting 150 police layoffs Friday.

Three of Mr. Wilkowski's rivals in the race for mayor agreed on the need for negotiations, but one said he was politicizing the crisis.

Mr. Wilkowski also suggested bringing in retired Supreme Court Justice Andy Douglas as a mediator, but that idea was quickly shot down by one of the parties in the stalled negotiations on a new contract with the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association.

"Andy Douglas is a friend of Carty Finkbeiner, so I wouldn't ask him to come in and be an unbiased third party," said Dan Wagner, president of the TPPA.

Mr. Finkbeiner and his chief of staff, Robert Reinbolt, did not respond to a call seeking comment.

In his letter to Mr. Finkbeiner and Mr. Wagner, Mr. Wilkowski said they should invite Mr. Douglas to mediate a resolution because Mr. Douglas "has earned the respect of labor and management over his long career."

Mr. Douglas, a former member of Toledo City Council and a member of the Ohio Supreme Court from 1985 to 2002, took what he called a negotiated buyout as executive director of the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association on Saturday after five years on the job. He is rejoining the Columbus law firm Crabbe, Brown & James.

Asked Tuesday if he would mediate the Toledo police contract, Mr. Douglas said he would consider it if asked.

The Finkbeiner administration is seeking concessions in a new contract with the TPPA covering 482 officers, including a 10 percent pay cut, suspension for one year of the city's pickup of the employee's 10 percent pension contribution for one year, and for police patrolmen to begin paying a portion of the cost of their city health insurance.

Fellow Democrat Ben Konop, who is also running to replace Mr. Finkbeiner as mayor, agreed that negotiations should move forward, but criticized Mr. Wilkowski's intervention.

"The last thing either side needs at this point is to have their negotiation process politicized further. Unfortunately, Mr. Wilkowski's latest statement does just that," Mr. Konop said."

Independent mayoral candidate Mike Bell said, "Because this is such a pressing issue with May 1st coming Friday, all due diligence should be put toward continuing and there should not be any breaks."

He said the situation calls for a mediator.

"If we continue the way they are doing it now they're going to continue to get the same result," Mr. Bell said.

Republican Jim Moody said the two sides should be meeting around the clock.

"I'll provide the food, coffee, and cots if necessary. It's time both sides recognize the severity of our problems, grow up, and start acting like adults," Mr. Moody said.

The Finkbeiner administration notified 150 police officers that they would be laid off Friday in the effort to avert a threatened $21.3 million deficit for 2009. But the layoffs save only $6 million for the rest of the year, still leaving the city with a $13 million deficit that needs to be closed.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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