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POLC actions bring justice to Flushing officers

Posted by: ignite Posted date: February 17, 2015


Justice was served to three Flushing Township Police officers when an arbitrator ruled they be returned to work with full back pay. The POLC’s legal battle on behalf of Officers Louis Cook, Mark Bolin and Andrew Owens resulted in them being put back on the payroll Jan. 24, 2013, said POLC Labor Rep. Lloyd Whetstone.

The officers returned to work March 19, 2013. The township board also negotiated with former township Sgt. Brian Fairchild to become police chief and give him the authority to reinstate and collect the necessary equipment for the force. Police equipment, including four patrol cars, miscellaneous equipment and several weapons, were sold off when the department was disbanded.

Two other officers, who were not part of the arbitration, were also returned to work, said POLC Labor Attorney Tom Zulch.

“It’s just a huge win for us to have a department put back into place,” Zulch said.

The patrol officers were awaiting an Act 312 arbitration hearing in February 2012 when the former township board suddenly laid off the department, voted to eliminate the collective bargaining agreement, and approved a contract with Genesee County Sheriff’s Department. The layoffs were grieved based on their contract, which requires layoffs be due to “a limitation of funds.” The officers claimed the move was politically motivated since they had participated in recall attempts against former township trustees.

Township attorneys cited falling revenue and unfunded liability as reasons for the layoffs and said the township could potentially save $150,000 to $200,000 annually by contracting with the Sheriff’s Department. However, Zulch proved funds were available due to a police millage, which pays 100 percent of department costs. He also proved there was no cost savings and the Sheriff’s Department was more expensive than the township’s own department.

The Arbitrator’s ruling stated the layoffs were in violation of the collective bargaining agreement because there was no limitation of funds to warrant them. The Arbitrator said the township’s law enforcement budget showed an increase of $47,388 or 56 percent from March 31, 2011 to March 31, 2012, while general government expenses increased by $27,000 during the same time period.

The POLC was also previously awarded seven of eight Act 312 issues on behalf of the laid-off officers. Their new contract, which expired March 31, 2014, included the POLC’s last best offer on recall rights (up to two years), retiree benefits, health care caps, sick leave, college incentive plan, selection of health care plan and contract duration. The Arbitration Panel also ruled the township had the ability to pay the officers based on the police millage.

Whetstone said officers from around the country called to congratulate the POLC unit. “I was very happy. It’s a very satisfying victory. We actually won everything we asked for,” Whetstone said.

A new township supervisor and four new members of the board were elected in November 2012. They decided not to appeal the Arbitrator’s ruling by a 6-0 vote Feb. 25, 2013 with Clerk Julia Morford absent. “It’s a positive note,” Whetstone said. “I don’t think they would win an appeal.”

The officers will receive back pay to February 2012 less any money they gained from working other jobs during the layoff period. “I’m working full-time at a part-time salary and no benefits … It’s just a bad thing,” said returning township Officer Louis Cook. “We’re happy that justice is finally being served. The prior board that was in there had an ax to grind with us.”

“I’m glad we have a new board in there that recognizes that and is doing what’s best for the township,” Cook said. “We’re happy to work with them.”

The POLC was able to negotiate a new four-year, nine-month contract with Flushing Township on behalf of the Officers and Sergeants, which expires March 31, 2017.

LAWSUITS

Two lawsuits were also brought against the township and settled for an undisclosed amount of money. A class-action suit involving Cook, Bolin, Owens, Brian Farlin and James Hough claimed their First Amendment rights were violated. The other lawsuit involved Fairchild, who claimed his employment was terminated because of his involvement in the recall campaign. Both lawsuits were settled for an undisclosed amount of money.