POUGHKEEPSIE – The City of Poughkeepsie Police Benevolent Association is moving forward with its charges against the common council, according to PBA Vice-President Chris Libolt. The PBA is filing a complaint with the Public Employees Relations Board (PERB) alleging that the council, under the leadership of Sarah Salem, violated a section of the Public Employees’ Fair Employment Act by rejecting the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for their contract that expired on December 31, 2020.
The PBA negotiated with Mayor Rob Rolison’s administration for nearly a year with both sides coming to an agreement that was signed in October. The proposal was presented to the council in January for the purpose of approving the five-year contract. The council voted 7-2 against approving the agreement. Councilmen Matt McNamara and Chis Petsas voted in support of the contract. As a result of the vote, the police have been left without a current contract.
The PBA, through their labor attorney Dave Davis of Davis & Ferber, alleges that the council denied the contract outside of their statutory authority.
After voting against it, the council issued a statement on social media, saying, “The Common Council wants to reach a deal with the PBA, and although we were not given an opportunity to share our concerns during the collective bargaining process, we’d like to outline the reforms that we would like included that are critically important to both the Common Council and the community.”
Libolt denounced the action of the council. “The council did not participate in the negotiations and leadership never mentioned their demands until after the MOA was signed. Certain members are using us as pawns for their own agenda, but our officers remain dedicated to keeping the city safe using the most progressive practices in law enforcement.”
The council is seeking to include their recommendations in the MOA before they will approve the deal. Residency requirements and civilian oversight are two of the initiatives the council wants to impose on the police department. Some members of the council are opposed to a five-year contract and are seeking to make it a three-year deal. According to the statement, “The Common Council believes, after consultation with legal counsel, that the current collective bargaining agreement does not fully reflect changes in the law since the original collective bargaining agreement was negotiated and ratified.”
Chairperson Salem recently invited fellow lawmakers to a Zoom meeting on January 29 at noon to discuss the proposal as well as the council’s options. The invitation was sent to all councilmembers at their personal email addresses, rather than their city email. The city’s attorney, Paul Ackermann, was also invited. Because of attorney-client privilege, the conversation is not available to the public.
Councilman Chris Petsas, who announced that he would be running for councilmember-at-large in an effort to replace Salem, was frustrated by the potentially costly PERB litigation. “It’s unfortunate that Council leadership is denying a contract for our true frontline workers in an effort to impose their agenda on the police, without saying anything while negotiations were happening.”
Rolison echoed the sentiment of Petsas. “This administration will continue to work on a path forward with the PBA as partners, not adversaries, and try to avoid costly litigation. Our Police Officers deserve a contract that reflects their importance to our City, which is what we collectively nrgotiated,” he said.
Salem did not respond to a request seeking comment.