On Friday, the Supreme Court of the State of New York Appellate Division: Fourth Judicial Department released its decision that has at least an $840,000 impact to the city of Jamestown’s bottom line, all though the final financial implications could be much higher.
The latest decision is part of an ongoing legal battle involving the Jamestown Kendall Club’s collective bargaining agreement covering the years 2016 and 2017.
The long-awaited decision is the result of the Jamestown City Council voting in May 2019 to appeal a State Supreme Court decision that upheld an October 2018 arbitration ruling on the 2016-17 collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the city and the Kendall Club. Among other things, that ruling provided a retroactive 2 percent increase in salaries for each of those two years for police officers.
In November 2018 the Jamestown City Council voted 7 to 1 in favor of challenging the initial arbitration ruling. State law requires an arbitration decision involving the police union to place a weighting factor of 70 percent toward the ability of a fiscally challenged municipality like Jamestown to pay. In challenging the arbitration process, the city felt it would be a violation of its fiduciary duty to comply the arbitration award, basing its argument on the award being in violation of the 70 percent state statute. The city’s legal argument was that the arbitration decision was “arbitrary and capricious” and did not take into account the serious financial challenges gripping the city.
The council’s decision to appeal to the Appellate Division came after Chautauqua County Supreme Court judge James Dillon ruled in April 2019 that that arbitration panel ruling on the matter would stand.
While still in office, former Jamestown mayor Sam Teresi had said the bottom-line impact would cost the city an excess of over $800,000 if the arbitration ruling where allowed to stand.
“To allow that decision to stand will have an $840,000 unbudgeted impact on the 2019 budget. And that impact is only for retroactive raises for 2016 and 2017. If that decision is allowed to stand, it could lay the groundwork for a similar retroactive payment with the fire union moving forward. And as well that $840,000 impact for the police union alone doesn’t take into account raises that might be received for 2018, 2019, and 2020 moving forward,” Teresi explained in March 2019.
The city does have an option to file yet another appeal and take the case to the New York Court of Appeals – the highest court in the state – if the council so chooses.