Town, police union dispute continues
Updated 1:12 pm, Thursday, September 4, 2014
Days after the Town of New Canaan filed a prohibited practice complaint with the Connecticut State Board of Labor Relations claiming the police union's "numerous frivolous" complaints have exhausted taxpayers' money, New Canaan Police Union Local 1575 filed a new complaint Aug. 28 accusing the town of failing to provide information regarding such expenses.
This is another episode in a negotiation that has been dragging for more than a year as town officials and union leaders failed to reach an agreement for a new contract.
The latest complaint states the union asked the town June 24 to provide it with all of the invoices for outside legal services used in the negotiation and arbitration of the police contract agreement, but the town "has failed and refused to provide" such information.
"The union sought the information because the Town has taken a position that it cannot afford to pay for reasonable wage increases, and it is further seeking to reduce benefits based on an inability to pay argument," the document states. "It is the union's belief that the town has incurred exorbitant attorney's fees in resisting the union's efforts to improve wages, and those exorbitant fees will be used to counter the town's argument that it is unable to pay."
The town filed its own complaint Aug. 18, claiming the union's "continued harassment of the employer through the grievance and municipal complaint process has forced the (town) to exhaust considerable monies, time and other public resources in order to address the patently frivolous and indefensible claims," the complaint, signed by First Selectman Robert Mallozzi, said.
According to Finance Director Dawn Norton, the town has spent $37,233 in legal fees since May 1 to address the union's complaints.
Mallozzi said he does not comment on labor issues.
More InformationMonth Total Police Legal Fees
May 2014 $6,315
June 2014 $15,529
July 2014 $10,060
August 2014 $5,330
Source: New Canaan Finance Department
It is not clear how many complaints the union has filed against the town in recent months, but one in June accused Police Chief Leon Krolikowski of illegally bypassing a union negotiating team in June, when he presented a contract proposal to the entire membership of the New Canaan Police Department.
The chief denies any wrongdoing.
Eric Brown -- an attorney with Council 15 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents the New Canaan police union -- said he would like not to be filing as many complaints, noting that town officials have forced such circumstances.
"We file grievances every time a town violates a contract," Brown said Aug. 22. "Any time we file a grievance is because the town has done something that breached the contract. If we're filing more grievances, which I don't think we are, it means there's something wrong."
New Canaan's 44 unionized police officers have been working without a contract for 13 months since negotiations with the town have proven unsuccessful.
A new agreement is under arbitration. In the meantime, the officers have been working under the conditions of the most recent contract, which covered 2010 to 2013.
Although neither party would elaborate on the details of the negotiation, Brown said the town is refusing to give the unionized officers a raise for the first year of the new contract and is proposing a 1 percent increase for another year.
About a dozen unionized police officers gathered at the New Canaan train station Thursday morning for an informational protest regarding their year-long contract negotiations with the town.
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