JAMESTOWN – The ongoing legal battle involving an arbitration ruling between the city of Jamestown and its police union appears to finally be over. As a result, the city will have to pay union members over $800,000 in back wages.
This week the New York State Court of Appeals denied a motion by the city to appeal a lower court’s ruling involving a 2018 arbitration ruling, in which an arbitration panel ruled the city must give the Jamestown Kendell Club police union police union a 2% salary increase as part of its 2016-2017 collective bargaining agreement (CBA).
The city filed the motion in the state’s highest court in late June after the State 4th Appellate Division in Rochester released a unanimous ruling on June 12 that upheld a 2019 State Supreme Court Decision allowing the arbitration ruling to stand.
The arbitration ruling originally came in 2018, after the city and police union reached an impasse in contract negotiations for the years covering 2016 and 2017.
Upon its release, city officials – led at the time by then-mayor Sam Teresi – felt the arbitration ruling failed to take into full consideration the financial challenges facing Jamestown. State law indicated that the Arbitration Panel was to place a 70% weighting factor on the city’s financial position and ability to pay for any increase in salary. The city contends the arbitrators didn’t place enough focus on that aspect of state law when ruling in favor of a pay raise for the union members.
With the court ruling not to hear the motion, the original arbitration ruling will stand. As a result, the city will have to pay an estimated $800,000 in back wages to the members of the union during the time period that is covered. In addition, a similar back payment would also likely have to be made to the Jamestown Professional Firefighters Association, which also never settled a contract for 2016 and 2017, but opted to wait until the police arbitration case plays out before possibly pursuing their own arbitration case.
The Albany-based law firm of Bond, Schoeneck & King represented the city in the legal dispute, while the Jamestown law firm of Fessenden, Laumer & DeAngelo represented the police union. The cost of the court proceedings for the city – including taking it to the State Court of Appeals – has totaled $50,000.
WRFA reached out to Mayor Eddie Sundquist on Thursday morning to find out how much the city will have to pay the police union, as well as what the timeline is for the retroactive payment.