Court Opts Against Overturning Pay Raises

City of Jamestown officials are still determining what its next step of action will be following the determination by the state Supreme Court in Mayville not to overturn the arbitration ruling that awarded Jamestown Police Department employees a 2 percent retroactive raise in 2016 and 2017.

On Monday, Sam Teresi, Jamestown mayor, said it’s disappointing the arbitration panel’s ruling that came out last year was not overturned by the state Supreme Court. He said city officials will now determine whether to appeal the decision to the New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division Fourth Department located in Rochester. He added city officials have 30 days from the judge’s ruling, which happened March 18, to appeal.

Teresi said it is not unusual for a lower court to turn a case over to the appellate level. He said if city officials do decide to appeal the decision it will continue to cost the city legal fees.

In December, the Jamestown City Council passed two resolutions dealing with the arbitration. One resolution was to appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court and the second was to hire Bond Schoeneck and King for legal services not to exceed $25,000.

The mayor said if city officials don’t appeal the decision the raises approved by the arbitration panel will mean an $840,000 unbudgeted increase in salaries for the Kendall Club Police Benevolent Association. He said the ruling, if it stands, also “lays the groundwork” for a similar raise for members of the Jamestown Fire Department, who are in a similar situation as the police department union. He added the arbitration panel ruling also doesn’t include possible retroactive salary increases for 2018 and 2019 as well.

City officials appealed the arbitration ruling because they believe it violated the arbitration statute that is supposed to weigh the ability for the municipality to pay. According to state civil service law, 70 percent of the arbitration panel’s decision is supposed to be based on the ability to pay by the municipality. Given Jamestown’s poor fiscal standing, the council believes this statute didn’t weigh into the arbitration panel’s decision.

In November 2018, the three-member arbitration panel released its split decision, 2-1, on the issue of a 2 percent pay increase, with independent arbitrator Howard Foster and John Crotty, police union representative, siding with the police and Todd Thomas, former city clerk and administrative services director who represented the city, providing the dissenting opinion.

The arbitration panel also had a split decision on a health insurance issue. Foster and Thomas approved while Crotty provided the dissenting opinion to change how much union members pay. As of Jan. 1, 2018, union members participating in the health and wellness program will pay 19 percent toward the total monthly premium for health and dental insurance. Also, if an active employee or retiree elects not to participate in the health and wellness program, their premium will be 26 percent.

The expired contract had union members who participated in the wellness program pay 17 percent and those who didn’t participate paid 22 percent.

All three members of the panel agreed that effective Jan. 1, 2016, any employee who has completed 17 years of service will receive a longevity payment of $3,000 a year thereafter, which is a $500 increase. Also, all three agreed the wording will change for the premium holiday contract clause by deleting the phrase “with less than 72 hours notice.”

The union had asked that officers receive additional pay when working on a premium holiday that they weren’t originally scheduled to work. Currently, only officers who are called in for a premium holiday with less than 72 hours notice receive additional pay. Now, all unscheduled premium holiday call-ins, regardless of the amount of notice given, will result in additional pay.

To view the arbitration report, visit perb.ny.gov/compulsory-interest-arbitration-award-index/iaawards-18-19.

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