Police unfair labor practice claim dismissed
An unfair labor practice claim filed against Cape Coral by the local police union has been dismissed.
Steven Meck, general counsel for the Florida’s Public Employees Relations Commission, issued a summary dismissal Friday after reviewing the charge.
According to the dismissal, he concluded that “a prima facie violation” had not been established.
On Jan. 4, the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 33 filed the charge with the state commission. In the charge, the union contended that the city entered into illegal pre-employment contracts and is coercing employees to enforce those contracts. It also said the city has refused to bargain in good faith.
According to Meck, all of the officers listed in the charge entered into the pre-employment contracts at least several years ago. For a charge alleging that those contracts are illegal to be timely by Florida statute, the charge had to be filed within six months of the officers signing the contracts.
“Thus, the portion of the charge alleging that the pre-employment contracts are unlawful is untimely and must be dismissed,” he wrote.
The union also alleged that it requested the city bargain, but the union does not specifically indicate what it wanted to negotiate with the city.
According to Meck, without a more specific allegation regarding the request to bargain, the charge is “factually deficient” by state law.
“A charge must contain a clear and concise statement of the facts constituting the alleged unfair labor practice,” he wrote.
Based of these reasons, Meck concluded that the union’s charge alleging unfair labor practices by the city is “insufficient to proceed to hearing.”
Gene Gibbons, attorney for the union, said his clients intend to amend the charge and refile it with the commission. He said they are disappointed that the general counsel did not accept the complaint as it was written, but they identified the “technical deficiencies” in the charge and will address them.
The union has 20 days from the dismissal to amend or appeal a charge.
“The FOP will protect their membership and press this issue,” Gibbons said. “This fight is far from over.”
In the summary dismissal, Meck noted that if the union disagrees with the city’s enforcement of the contracts, the proper forum in which to make such a claim appears to be in circuit court, alleging a breach of contract rather than filing an unfair labor practice with the state commission.
Gibbons said if the amended charge is dismissed, that could be next.
“We’re going to do whatever it takes to get the right result, that those contracts are illegal and unenforceable,” he said. “If we have to go to circuit court, that’s what we’ll do.”
A message left for the city’s labor attorney was not returned Tuesday.
Police spokesman Lt. Tony Sizemore reported that interim Police Chief Jay Murphy was not releasing a statement on the dismissal of the complaint.
“Chief has no comment on the issue,” he said.
The Cape Coral Police Department announced last month that it would seek repayment from 11 police officers for failing to earn 60 educational credits. The credits are a provision for employment and the officers agreed to earn them within four years when they were hired.
According to police officials, the education requirement is mandatory for officers to move up in “step” levels and receive the higher pay provided at each level. The 11 officers were told that they must repay the city for the additional dollars that they received as a result of moving to higher levels.
The city is seeking about $95,509 in reimbursements. The amounts vary from officer to officer, but they range from about $3,554 to $23,195.