City, New London police union sign agreement to avert layoffs

New London — The New London police union and the city have signed an agreement that prevents any layoffs in the police department for this fiscal year and saves the city nearly $1 million, Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio said at a press conference Friday evening.

The savings avert 10 previously proposed layoffs within the department and come in part from "innovative" scheduling changes that reduce the need for overtime, according to the agreement, released Friday by the mayor's office.

The city is anticipating $500,000 in savings as a result of the scheduling change; additional savings come from resolving 34 out of more than 40 grievances and complaints filed by the union against the city.

The net savings from the deal is an estimated minimum of $954,000, Finizio said.

Finizio originally said the 10 layoffs would save the city about $581,000.

"I believe that this action represents a monumental step forward in the relationship between the New London police union and the city administration," he said.

The union withdrew more than two dozen grievances and complaints and settled several more, including one pertaining to the firings this year of two former officers, Thomas Northup and Joshua Bergeson.

Among the withdrawn grievances were six filed by Lynch and six by retired Capt. William Dittman. Dittman sued the city in March, alleging that Finizio and the police chief agreed to take "any action necessary" to remove him from the force.

Friday's agreement also awards four compensation days in 2012-13 to all members of the police department at a cost of $85,000; outlines pay and use of sick time when a union member takes a leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act; specifies how union members will be paid when taking time away from work to negotiate contracts and grievances; and clarifies details in the contract regarding overtime.

"I think the union and the mayor's office have turned a corner for positive resolutions on police union issues," union President Todd Lynch said at the press conference. "I believe the deals announced today are fair on both sides, and we continue to look forward to a future of positive resolutions with the mayor's office."

It is unclear what the scheduling changes are. When asked for details, both Lynch and Zak Leavy, Finizio's executive assistant, referred questions to the police department.

Police Deputy Chief Peter Reichard did not return an email requesting more information Friday night.

A 'constructive' negotiation

The two parties signed a memorandum of agreement on June 14 that rescinded the layoff notices sent to police officers in May as part of budget cuts. In that memo, the union agreed to support the city's budget during any referendum.

That agreement, which Finizio said Friday saved the city $14,000, also promised that city Chief Administrative Officer Jane Glover and Lynch would "make a concerted effort to resolve all outstanding grievances" and complaints.

The union also then promised to support the position of deputy police chief. Reichard started in May as deputy chief, creating with Chief Margaret Ackley the scheduling change that ultimately saved the city $500,000. The change was implemented in June.

Friday, Finizio thanked Lynch for his work negotiating with Glover in a "constructive" way to help the union and the city move forward. He also thanked police department for working under "difficult conditions" for the last few months as the department has undergone restructuring and as the city has dealt with a fiscal crisis that included the potential for layoffs.

Finizio first announced the layoffs of 10 police officers and 25 firefighters in May after the council approved the first of three readings of its $83 million budget proposal and an 8 percent tax increase.

The $42.3 million general-government budget will go to a public vote Sept. 18.

a.isaacs@theday.com

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