San Bernardino Police Union: Truce Over

By Ryan Hagen, The Sun

The police officer association's nearly yearlong truce with the city is over, the union's attorney said Wednesday in a filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

And so it's asking for two actions — one to move along a case they say is languishing in court, the other as a "counterpunch" against a city they allege "pulled the rug out" in the disputed breakdown of a tentative contract agreement.

Noting that the city's bankruptcy case is now in its third year and has cost city taxpayers more than $6.5 million, attorney Ron Oliner writes that the city has "steadfastly refused" to answer when it would present a plan of adjustment, the plan to exit bankruptcy. And so the court should order a deadline by which the city must present that plan, he says.

And he says two motions that have been dormant for months while negotiations progressed and then culminated in August in a tentative agreement — the union's request to lift a stay that otherwise prevents it from suing the city, and the city's motion to reject the union's existing contract as the judge already allowed them to do to firefighters — should be revived now that the deal between the city and union is gone.

"Perhaps emboldened by this (bankruptcy) Court's recent rulings against Fire and in favor of the City permitting rejection of Fire's collective bargaining agreement, and undoubtedly in light of recent developments in the Stockton bankruptcy case speaking to impairment or potential impairment of pension obligations, there has been a sea change at City Hall," he says in the status conference statement. "The SBPOA's new long term contract, which has been described in only limited terms in this Court because of a gag order, was revoked by the City when it attempted to implement terms at variance with the agreement. The parties are no longer actively negotiating, though the SBPOA has been advised that the City will be making another proposal."

City officials have said they can't give details about what went wrong with the contract because of the gag order, but they contend that union's characterization is misleading.

The union's motion points to rising crime as the number of police dwindled — from 32 homicides in 2009 to 46 in 2013, with 30 so far this year — and says officers want "the stability that comes with a fair contract."

"While the City's leaders continue to spend huge sums on lawyers in this case, the City will be unable to retain or hire qualified officers without a competitive contract," it says. "As a result, crime statistics will continue to rise (something which has been demonstrated repeatedly in other municipal bankruptcies)."

Oliner also refers to opposition to Measure Q — the ballot measure that would end the guarantee that police and firefighters be paid the average of 10 other cities' pay — as "the only way the SBPOA can protect itself and the City."

The city has not yet filed its status report, and City Attorney Gary Saenz did not return a phone call Tuesday.

-Ryan Hagen, The Sun

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