Wednesday, December 1, 2010
W-B firefighters' arbitration award upheldBy Andrew Staub (Staff Writer) December 1, 2010
Pennsylvania's highest court this week denied Wilkes-Barre's latest appeal to overturn an arbitration decision awarding city firefighters up to $1 million.
Monday's decision could end a battle that has smoldered in courts in Luzerne County, Philadelphia and Harrisburg and contributed to rising tensions between the city and its firefighters.
"This has been a struggle for over two years," said Thomas Makar, president of the firefighters union. "Now hopefully it's done and over with."
The debate centered around a 2007 union grievance that challenged the city's failure to award firefighters pay raises equal to those of police, a requirement in the firefighters' contract.
Under the state Supreme Court's ruling, the city would have to abide by an arbitration award that boosts union members' wages by $1,500 a year and requires the city to pay retired members past salary increases that total $1 million. The city must also adjust retired members' pensions.
Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton heard of the decision Tuesday afternoon and was unsure of what recourse the city might have.
"It's in the attorneys' hands now," he said.
The city set nearly $1 million aside in escrow should the appeal lose, a move Leighton has said was financed with the majority of a 13-mill property tax hike in 2009.
The city has tried and failed to introduce as evidence a letter penned by Makar in 2004 that Leighton said shows the union president knew of the raises for police years before the union filed the grievance.
A grievance should been filed within five days of learning of the police raises, the city argued, making a grievance filed in 2007 untimely. The city's fortune would be different had the letter been allowed as evidence, Leighton said.
"That's taxpayers' money," Leighton said. "(Makar) should stand up and say, 'We did know about it, and we withdraw the grievance.' It's the right thing to do. Whether he does it or not is another issue."
The city uncovered the letter a year after the arbitrator's decision. Commonwealth Court Judge Kevin Brobson ruled in March that "if the city had acted with reasonable diligence it could have produced the letter during the arbitrator's hearing."
An arbitrator also ruled Makar filed the grievance "a day or two" after learning of the police pay increases.
Makar characterized Leighton's focus on the letter as a "diversion."
"I'm not even going to say anything because, again, I think it's trying to take the spotlight away from what they did," Makar said. "There was a contract in effect and there was a parity clause that said if you award a salary increase to the police department, the same should be given to the fire department."
I'd like to point out a few things. Leighton is a Hypocrite. Then Mayor McGroarty hid this money from the FD (the FD had monetary parity with the PD when this happened), Leighton was a councilman at the time. The city signed a contract giving the FD parity and as a councilman Leighton knew this or should have. When he became Mayor, Leighton decided to continue to hide this money from the FD. This is a 'Bad Faith' move. And he has the gall to say "That's taxpayers' money,(Makar) should stand up and say, 'We did know about it, and we withdraw the grievance.' It's the right thing to do." Dictator Leighton wouldn't do 'the right thing' unless it benifitted a campaign contributor.
Watch, Leighton (the spitefull politician that he is) will try another McGroarty tactic and IGNORE the courts ruling, last I heard he still hasn't paid Denise Carey after violating her Constitutional Rights.
Leighton lied to the public and claimed that maxing out our taxes was because of the FD, but that money has been in an escroe account for almost 2 years.... Why hasn't our taxes gone back down?
1 VIOLATED CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS, TWICE (Denise Carey & the Hammonds)
2 Bad faith moves
3 Back room deals
4 Sold city property for 8 cents on the dollar to a campaign contributor
5 Lied to county officials to get tax forgiveness to a campaign contributor
6 Cut our safety to fund HIS pet projects
7 The whole Ice Rink, which was supposed to revitalize W-B HOW?
8 The largely worthless camera system
9 Raised taxes and fees to an all time high.
10 Racked up MASSIVE lawsuit debts
11 Violated a contract (Citywide Towing's contract) so he could give it to a campaign contributor
12 Trying to sell W-B property (Tax Free) to a campaign contributor (Known for not paying his own taxes)
13 Outright lies to us (The citizens of Wilkes-Barre)
14 Blaming anyone and everyone for his failures (remember the 'I believe' campaign, "I wouldn't say I oversold it. I think maybe the media did," Mayor Leighton said. (WNEP June 10, 2005) AKA It's not my fault, it's the medias)
15 Ignoring the Lloyds Study (which states the minumum FD manning per shift is 17) and cutting manning to 12 per shift
Enough for now
Dan Emplit WBFD
AKA Don Quixote