Guest opinion: Mayor backs proposed deal with police union | August 21, 2013 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


Viewpoint - August 21, 2013

Guest opinion: Mayor backs proposed deal with police union

by Mayor Peter Ohtaki and City Council member Ray Mueller

We wanted to inform residents that on Aug. 20 the Menlo Park City Council will consider adopting a new one-year agreement with the Menlo Park Police Sergeants' Association (PSA), which includes:

• No wage increases;

• No health-benefit increases;

• Continuation of the PSA's voluntary agreement to pay 3 percent of the city's contribution to CalPERS (in addition to their own 9 percent contribution);

• A significant change to the disciplinary appeal process allowing for the selection of retired San Mateo County judge's as the arbitrator of appeals.

• A Labor-Management Committee that will meet quarterly to jointly identify solutions to the city's pension liabilities.

This new agreement dramatically changes how parties will select arbitrators for disciplinary appeals. Until now, the parties were limited to selecting arbitrators from a list provided by the state. In contrast, under the new agreement either party now will have the ability to request the matter be heard by a retired judge of the San Mateo County Court, should the parties not be able to agree on an arbitrator selected from either the state list or from the roster of arbitrators available from JAMS in San Francisco.

The JAMS roster of arbitrators already contains at least one retired San Mateo County judge, in addition to retired judges from Santa Clara County and the County of San Francisco.

We believe this change in the arbitration process is substantive because retired judges who've spent their careers deciding high-stakes civil and criminal matters in our community understand our values and are more accountable.

To the best of our knowledge, no other Bay Area jurisdiction has this arrangement for disciplinary appeals (although San Jose recently added this to their charter interest arbitration language). Arbitration over disciplinary matters is widely used to keep overall litigation expenses down.

We also want to clarify some confusion in the media regarding Palo Alto's recent change in binding arbitration over economic issues. Palo Alto's Measure D did not end binding arbitration in their city's personnel disciplinary appeals process, but rather repealed the portion of their city charter requiring binding arbitration when contract negotiations between the city and public safety unions come to an impasse. Menlo Park has had no binding arbitration over economic issues.

The agreement will also create a Labor-Management Committee that meets quarterly to explore ways to address the city's pension liability. The committee will meet with experts, and be able to study and look for solutions to this statewide and regional problem. We hope that other city labor groups will join this committee as their agreements come up for renewal. We look forward to their collaborative solutions.

We're proud of our police and the excellent service they provide to keep Menlo Park safe. We want to commend the PSA and the city's negotiating team for their hard work in reaching this agreement, which was the result of a positive and effective partnership between the PSA and the city.

We appreciate the PSA's commitment to working together to ensure the city's sustainability and security and want to thank them for their leadership in being the first group to reach agreement. We look forward to similar successful partnerships as we continue to negotiate with the Police Officers Association and begin negotiations with SEIU and AFSCME.

Peter I. Ohtaki is serving his first term as mayor; Mayor Pro Tem Ray Mueller was elected to the council last November.


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