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Published: Saturday, 2/12/2011

City to pay $500,000 in officers' grievance

The city has been ordered to pay up to $500,000 stemming from some 60 police officers whose shifts were changed because of the layoffs, according to a grievance arbitration ruling released this week.

At issue was whether the city violated the contract for the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association when police officers were reassigned from their “permanent, nonrotating shifts” just before the May, 1, 2009, layoff of 75 officers for part of that year. The shifts of the laid-off officers, which were mostly afternoons and nights, were filled by other officers who mostly had worked mornings and afternoons.

Labor Arbitrator Linda DiLeone Klein sided with the police union and awarded the affected officers four hours of pay for each day they worked a shift that was not their original shift at the start of 2009 through the end of that year — which was about the time most of the laid-off officers returned to work.

“Prior to 1982, the chief had full authority to schedule officers to meet the needs of the city,” Ms. Klein wrote in her opinion. “In 1982, the union proposed that consideration be given to allowing officers to exercise their seniority rights to bid on permanent, nonrotating shifts and to remain on the select shifts for one year.”

After the 2009 layoffs — which were ordered by then-Mayor Carty Finkbeiner — police Chief Mike Navarre reassigned officers to fill those empty shifts, which the arbitrator said violated that part of the union's contract.

Donato Iorio, attorney for the TPPA, praised the ruling.

“In short, the TPPA is pleased that the contract's plain and unambiguous language was upheld. Permanent shifts provide officers a small dose of sanity and stability in a job that otherwise has none,” Mr. Iorio said.

Jen Sorgenfrei, spokesman for Mayor Mike Bell, said the city would appeal the ruling because the chief made the shift changes as part of the city's management rights. She also said the city could not afford the expense.

“The city plans to appeal the arbitration ruling on the grounds that it cannot afford the financial remedy prescribed by the arbitrator,” Ms. Sorgenfrei said. “Additionally, the city maintains that it was at the discretion of the [police] chief and in the interest of public safety to assign officers to the shift, filling vacancies created by the layoffs that occurred in 2009. Had the chief not assigned officers to the shift, we would have been missing a third-shift safety force — to the detriment of public safety in Toledo.”

An appeal would be made in Lucas County Common Pleas Court.

“Beyond that, we consider this pending litigation and cannot discuss the issue in further detail until our legal representatives are able to address it in the proper judicial forum,” Ms. Sorgenfrei said.

Dan Wagner, TPPA president, said he advised the police chief in May, 2009, that his actions would violate the contract. Mr. Wagner also said he offered the city a “nonmonetary” alternative.

“The chief balked at it and said that they would win the arbitration,” he said.

Mr. Wagner said the ruling upheld the union's contract, which both the Finkbeiner and Bell administrations have tried to ignore.

In 2009, Mr. Finkbeiner suggested Toledo City Council unilaterally impose cuts on TPPA and other city unions by declaring “exigent circumstances.” Ultimately, council refused and ordered both sides back to the table to reach labor agreements. Mayor Bell last year was successful in convincing a majority of council to declare “exigent circumstances” and imposed tough concessions on city unions, including police officers and firefighters. Those were ultimately rolled back after the unions agreed to midcontract concessionary agreements that were less severe.

“As has always been the nature of the TPPA, we are willing to sit down and discuss this,” Mr. Iorio said. “They said no like they have before and took a hard-line approach, which was unfortunate, as they found out.”



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