Tuesday May 12 2009
Auburn police union sues city
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
Officers, officials battle over shift change
The Auburn Police Officers’ Association is suing the city of Auburn for alleged unfair labor practices. The lawsuit, filed May 7, lists the city, Auburn Police Department, Chief Valerie Harris and City Manager Bob Richardson as defendants. According to the Association’s attorney David Mastagni and the lawsuit filed in Placer County Superior Court, police officers’ schedules were unilaterally changed without consent from or negotiating in good faith with the union. Mastagni said there has been a long-standing practice since at least 1998 of officers bidding for shifts based on seniority. The decision to unilaterally assign shifts took away that right to bid, Mastagni said. “As you can imagine that would be very disruptive to people’s personal lives, child-care arrangements, families as well as the different pays associated with different shifts that some people are losing as a result of rescheduling,” Mastagni said. City Attorney Michael Colantuono, however, disagreed. “The city denies the allegations of the complaint,” Colantuono said Tuesday. “It’s the city’s position that there was never an established policy allowing a seniority shift-bidding system.” Mastagni said on May 8 the union, which represents about 20 employees of the Auburn police department, was scheduled to meet with city officials over the proposed schedule change. However, a few days prior to the meeting, city and police department officials issued a new schedule, and had “predetermined the outcome,” making the meeting “pretextual,” Mastagni said. Citing the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act, Mastagni said the city must negotiate in good faith with the union before making changes that impact wages or hours. Richardson and Harris both responded that they received a summons questioning the administration’s interpretation of officer shift scheduling. “At this point it’s a legal matter and we cannot discuss the details further,” Richardson said Tuesday. Richardson said during the City Council’s closed session Monday night, they authorized the city attorney to defend the city in legal matters regarding the lawsuit. A city labor counsel is expected to handle the case. Auburn Police Officers’ Association President Stan Hamelin, who is an officer in the department, referred all comment to union’s legal representative, Mastagni. Mastagni said the association is asking the court to uphold the existing practice of seniority shift bidding and follow the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act in terms of negotiating with the association about working conditions. “The lawsuit is not about money,” Mastagni said. “The lawsuit is about enforcing the rights of the police officers association to represent its members and forcing the city and police department to follow the law.” The Journal’s Jenifer Gee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or post a comment.