Police union: Let's get a deal done to avoid costly arbitration

Police union: Let's get a deal done to avoid costly arbitration

Mayor: I will not be backed against a wall

NORTH PROVIDENCE - The head of the union that represents local police officers is calling on Mayor Charles Lombardi to start "negotiating in good faith" to finally get a new contract done and avoid a costly legal battle.

"We always do what's right for the town and its taxpayers, but we need to be treated with respect and fairness," said David Drezek, president of the North Providence Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 13. "The mayor is not being fair in negotiations."

Lombardi is rejecting the notion that his administration hasn't been above board in contract talks, saying it is police union leaders who have been the biggest stumbling block to getting a new contract signed.

The mayor said he has not only been fair with police union negotiators, but he now believes he was being too generous with his last contract offer, which was rejected by the union.

"It was a mistake what I offered them," he said. "We offered them a 10.5 percent raise for a seven-year deal, with 4 percent in the first year. I made a mistake with that."

Drezek is calling for a swift resolution to a months-long stalemate in contract talks to avoid a costly arbitration process and get the men and women in the department the contract they deserve. The FOP Lodge 13 has been working without a contract since 2009, he said. Drezek said going to arbitration, where each side will spend nearly $100,000 on the process, is not the way to go. "Nobody wins in arbitration," he said. "It will only be a one-year deal and we'll be right back here again."

With no progress on negotiations, Lombardi has called an impasse, said Drezek, prompting the appointment of an arbitrator, but he still believes a new deal can be struck before the arbitration process gets going.

Lombardi took offense to Drezek's suggestion that he might be to blame if the town spends $100,000 on an arbitration case.

"What is this, legalized extortion? A shakedown? A threat to taxpayers?" he asked. "I will not be backed against the wall at the cost of the taxpayers. He can forget about that."

Lombardi said he's especially angry about being blamed for the stalled contract talks because of how far he's gone to protect members of the Police Department.

"I don't know what else I can do for these guys," he said. "I shored up their pensions for life with the Google money. We fought our heart out to make sure their future was secure. Their pensions are at 95 percent, and that's because of Charlie Lombardi."

The fact that union leaders are using the pension fund's improved status to now push for higher pay is an "insult" to taxpayers, said Lombardi.

Drezek said he respects Lombardi, and union members are thankful for what he did to lobby for using some of the department's winnings from a Google settlement last year to fix the police pension fund, but no one should forget that it was the "hard work by the men and women of this department who got the town that money" in the first place.

Drezek said he lives in town and understands the issue of contract negotiations both from a union member and taxpayer perspective. This is about getting police officers the reasonable pay they deserve after years without any raises, he said.

But Lombardi said the average taxpayer doesn't care that police officers have gone four years without a raise. Many have told him they want to see them go three years more, he said.

Drezek contends that police officers have been giving for years. They previously gave back five positions to the town, for a savings of $500,000, and another $209,000 to help with the 2009 financial crisis. The FOP is the only organization in town to "sponsor every youth team," with members spending $5,000 of their own money on town youth each year, he said.

"We're not just takers, we're givers," he said. "We're always giving."

Comments

I find it appalling what we as a Town are doing to the brave men and women who patrol our streets, neighborhoods and protect our citizens from the influx of criminals from neighboring cities. The time has come Mr. Mayor to pay these folks what they deserve and have earned. The majority of people only know of the police when they receive a ticket for a motor vehicle incident; what they fail to realize is the hard work and dedication that the police offer this town that goes unpublished in the local media. The job that they perform on a daily basis should be rewarded and praised for they are the people who wake up every day to protect you and I from the criminal element. It’s time to do what’s right Mr. Mayor.

It's the economy, it stinks, everyone that works outside of public unions knows that (to bad the unions don't understand that), we have been working harder for less for years.
What is fair has to be related to the taxpayers that live in this town. On the Google money, it's the taxpayers that paid for the police that were assigned to that project. The police work for the taxpayers, not for the union.
The Mayor is correct in pushing back on all union contracts that have any increases, we the town on NP do NOT have the money to give public union groups raises or more benefits while we are struggling to make ends meet. The Mayor is doing what is right for the 30K people that live in this town vs. public union workers (police, fire, teachers) that want more no matter what our economic condition is.

Police, Fire, Teachers - is that not the future of N. Prov? To attract new businesses to the area we need highly educated students (teachers can help with that if they're well paid), we need safety (the police and fire dept. can help with that, but they also should be given a fair wage) I realize time are tough and we're all struggling to make ends meet, but we need to invest in our future as well. The Mayor claims to have a surplus, so let's spend it wisely to attract new residents and businesses.

Let me get this straight, there are 30,000 residents in NP. The average tax bill is $4,000.00 per year. That equates to $120,000,000 – not including businesses. So where is the money going. We know it’s not going to Police, Fire, or Teachers. We also know it’s not going to fix the roads. I think it’s time for some transparency from town hall or it’s time for new leadership at town hall.

If I recall correctly the google settlement was 60 million and the Mayor spent ~20 million to sure up a fund that the town decimated. Where is the remainder of the google money? Perhaps that should be spent on the Police department to ensure they are the best equipped and most technologically advanced department in the state. Imagine those headlines Mr. Lobardi. Instead of constantly fighting with the Police department try working with them for the betterment of the town.

The police department has purchased a whole new fleet of vehicles and is developing a new substation (with two new officers) at Notte Park. Also in the works is an application for all new equipment and computer system. Those headlines have been written.

As a taxpayer I sit hear and take in the numbers. Let's see that would equate to 1.5 % per year raise. Mayor just so you know,the 4% the first year still adds up to 1.5% per year over 7 years. Now I know how Mayor Lombardi made his fortune. On the backs of his employees at Luxury Cleaners. He also promotes himself again stating the the NP Police pension is fully funded because of Charlie Lombardi. I don't think so. I am sure Sen. Jack Reed along with Sen. Whitehouse and Congressman Cicciline and Langevin would like to know that Mayor Lombardi is taking all of the credit for getting the pension deal done. The only people that should get credit are the NP Police Detectives that worked the case. Without them no Google money. Without the Google money the Mayor would still be underfunding the pension as he has in the past. He now has an extra $800,000 for his budget now that he doesn't have to be on the makeup for the underfunded pension. If he was so worried about the taxpayer as he claims he would use those funds to offer a larger auto tax exemption reducing your auto tax. But NO he will continue to tax the people of NP and they will be in this proverbial trance because he continues to fight every union costing the taxpayer thousands in legal bills. I also like how he promotes himself with words like "extortion" "shakedown" "threat to the taxpayer" what is this GoodFellas. Here's a Mayor that has been shaking down the taxpayer since he took office. This year alone he raised your taxes .14 per thousand. Not a lot of money but he did tell the people of NP that he was cutting jobs had a 2 million dollar surplus and the bond rating had improved. Why raise taxes ? It also appears the members of the Dept. gave him some concessions at one point. With the way the has been promoting himself for the last two years on talk show radio and many other media outlets the town should have a 5 million dollar surplus. The police union has had much patience with the Mayor and has given much back to the community. This Mayor is elected to negotiate a fair contract with the Union,that is his job. The contract also has to be fair to the taxpayers. It's unfortunate that a arbitrator will decide the fate of the Town and the Town will have to pay 100k in legal bills for this arbitration that could go either way. Remember 2009 is settled first then they come back to settle each year without a contract. This should have been settled in 2009 it has now gone to far. The Mayor is to blame if the costs are excessive. The only person benefiting this arbitration is the Towns labor attorney.

Ethan - thank you for the clarification. However, that is such an insignificant amount of money from 40 Million. Where is the rest - Why doesn't the police department have the latest in technology to fight crime ( as was the intention of the funds in the first place ) Police officers using their own cell phones for police business, what the hell? That would not happen in the private sector and should not happen in a town with 40 million dollars being held over the heads of the staff that made it happen. Pathetic.

Like I said, they are writing an application now to get all new equipment. I'm sure there will be many more applications coming. Curious, how is the $40 million being held over their heads?

It is my understanding that the department has requested (on numerous occasions) that funds be allocated for equipment to assist in law enforcement only to be told by the Mayors office that "no money will be spent until an agreement is reached" I would equate that to being held over their heads; would you not?

Mayor Lombardi, are these accusations true? I know we've gotten new police cars, I've seen them. They look rather futuristic to me so they must be new. Is the town really spending that much money to settle a contract with the police department, if so why has it taken this long and why is it costing the tax payers so much?

No one from the police union has indicated that to me. I can certainly ask.

Let me start by saying I'm offended by the mayor's comment that police union leaders have been the biggest stumbling block to getting a contract signed. Having been involved in the process and present for just about every meeting I know nothing could be further from the truth. Our contract expired in 2009. After over a year and several certified letters to the mayor requesting we begin to work on a new contract he eventually engaged. That was a whole year wasted when some sort of dialogue could've been initiated. I don't recall any member of the unions negating team ever storming out of the meetings causing not only a disruption but a further delay in the process. As tempted as my fellow union members and I might have been to do just that, we stayed the course because we are determined to successfully negotiate a contract. The Mayor's claims regarding his offer and attempts are flawed. To claim the union is participating in extortion or a shakedown is insulting. To insinuate that we are not interested in helping the town with its financial issues is completely false. Our commitment to the community was evident several years ago, before the town was even in financial crisis, when we offered over $200,000 in concessions. And they were in the form of give backs. And by that I mean nothing in return was promised or expected. It was simply to assist the town. We were the first union to voluntarily start a medical co-payment . We negotiated a global settlement that not only resolved many grievances stemming from contract violations but it also allowed a reduction in the number of police officers thus providing $500,000 in savings annually. That was nearly three years ago. So we are approaching a savings amounting to nearly $2,000,000 yet we are portrayed as not wanting to do our part. Let it be clear, the union did not call an end to current contract negotiations, in fact , our labor specialist pleaded with the mayor to continue dialogue and resolve the issues. So for the mayor to say union leaders are the stumbling block I say this: I'd be willing to return to the table tomorrow and continue negotiations. But it has to be just that a negotiation. Not a ridiculous offer jammed down our throats with the threat of going to the media with our unwillingness to accept it. That's not negotiating.

Ethan,
Could you please ask where the police K9 is? I haven't seen the SUV around in a while. Everyone I ask doesn't seem to know or want to say. I know he did a lot for the town. Why are we missing something that important to the town's people when the police have all that money?