Thursday, March 13, 2003

Council rejects police contract

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Cincinnati City Council again rejected a contract for police supervisors Wednesday, sending the issue to binding arbitration.

The city and the Fraternal Order of Police are at odds over the five assistant chief positions contained in the bargaining unit. Issue 5, a charter amendment approved by voters in 2001, removed those positions from civil service and allowed the city manager to hire and fire assistant chiefs directly.

But a Louisville arbitrator found Tuesday that the city's charter conflicts with state collective-bargaining law, and recommended the city adopt the tentative agreement negotiated by the city manager and the police union in December.

City Council, by a 7-2 vote, rejected that recommendation. The issue now moves from fact-finding, which either party can reject, to binding arbitration.

Councilman Pat DeWine blamed City Manager Valerie Lemmie's administration.

"The people are sovereign, and the will of the people was blatantly disregarded in this contract," he said. "Certainly, the city was not well represented at the bargaining table, and we all bear responsibility for that."

Among city negotiators was Police Chief Tom Streicher, who vocally opposed Issue 5 in 2001. Lemmie has said the city could not force the FOP to negotiate a provision it was opposed to, no matter who was at the table.

DeWine said the city offered police supervisors a bigger pay raise if they agreed to the charter change, but the FOP refused.

Republican Chris Monzel, who joined Charterite JimTarbell in dissenting, said the city's futile attempts to dictate terms of the contract were sending the wrong message to officers.

"We need to fight crime instead of fighting our police force," he said.

Councilman John Cranley said he's for the charter. "I think what you're beginning to see is that despite the turmoil of the last couple of years, this council has a backbone," he said.


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