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Longboat Key Monday, Oct. 21, 2019 7 months ago

Impasse-settlement hearing planned for Nov. 20

Retirement system is main sticking point in police contract talks.
by: Eric Garwood Managing Editor

The town and the union representing its rank-and-file police officers will meet at Town Hall in November in a hearing designed to settle an impasse in contract negotiations.

At 1 p.m., Nov. 20, lawyers representing the town and the Southwest Chapter of the Florida Police Benevolent Association are scheduled to present their cases before the Town Commission to settle sticking points after months of negotiation.

An impasse was declared in early October over wages and the system used to administer police retirement benefits. Tentative agreements on about 18 other matters have been reached in talks to replace a three-year collective bargaining agreement, which has been in place since 2016.

A new contract was to have gone into effect at the end of September, prompting the impasse.

Mike McHale, the president of the FPBA chapter, said access to the Florida Retirement System for officers is the main obstacle to a deal. Access to FRS is available for the town’s firefighters.

“Police officers need to be treated the same as firefighters,’’ he said.  

McHale said both sides have agreed to bypass mediation and present their sides of the argument to the Town Commission for settlement.

On Nov. 20, representatives for both sides, in an open-to-the-public Impasse Resolution Hearing, will offer testimony, documents and other exhibits, with each side initially receiving up to 45 minutes to present.

Cross-examination will then take place, and each side will receive 15 minutes for a rebuttal, though those time limits could be extended by majority vote of Commissioners.

Commissioners will be free to ask questions and make comments at any time.

Following closing arguments from each side, Commissioners will vote on both issues in front of them and when they would take effect, approving them through a simple majority. That contract, including the Commission's take on pay and retirement, would be presented to officers for a ratification vote. If officers vote to approve the contract, it will be good for three years.

If they reject the contract, the two issues as approved by the commission are imposed on the union for a fiscal year, during which additional negotiations can take place for a longer term contract, said W. Reynolds Allen, the town's labor attorney. 

The current police contract raised pay ranges for sergeants to $65,197 to $81,064. Officers’ salaries in the now-expired but still in force contract range from $45,361 to $70,237.

By Nov. 13, attorneys representing both sides must share with the Town Commission and each other a proposal on how the Town Commission can resolve the issue of retirement plans and pay, a copy of all documents they intend to present at the Impasse Resolution Hearing and a list of witnesses they intend to call.

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