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There are processes to follow when disagreements over contractual mandates and labor rules arise between municipal unions and administrations. Both the union representing New London Police Department officers and the administration of Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio need to stick to the process and stop the public feud.
The animus between union leadership, Mayor Finizio and the person he chose to keep running the department after his November 2011, Chief Margaret Ackley, is deep and shows no signs of easing. No amount of name-calling or exchanges of accusations will change the equation. Chief Ackley has expressed no interest in leaving. It appears Mayor Finizio would have no justification under state law for removing her, even if he wanted to, and the union continues to back its president, Officer Todd Lynch.
They have to co-exist for the time being, more reason for following a process.
There appeared to be some reason for optimism a month ago when both sides agreed to use a third-party mediator to help resolve a backlog of labor grievances. It now appears that arrangement may dissolve before it gets going.
The union and administration continue to clash over the circumstances under which officers will get leave and receive pay while doing union business, such as mediation sessions. This should be easy to resolve; do it.
Union leaders contend the police administration is withholding information they need to prepare for an April 8 state Board of Mediation and Arbitration meeting. The board will hear the union's appeal of the firing of Officer David McElroy, dismissed for allegedly leaking internal information about an ongoing criminal investigation to a news outlet. While it would be nice if the two sides could agree about access to information, the fact is the arbitration board will order the information released if it finds the administration is illegally obstructing the union's ability to represent Officer McElroy's interests.
Officer Lynch is critical too of the administration's decision to appeal the reinstatement of Officer Thomas Northup, as ordered by the Board of Mediation and Arbitration. In a strongly worded decision, the board found Mayor Finizio was not justified in firing Officer Northup in 2011 for shooting and permanently injuring a suspect.
We too question the wisdom of the appeal, but it is the city's right and not grounds for the police to abandon mediation talks on other matters.
The administration should take all reasonble steps to assuage union fears about the fairness of the process; meanwhile, the union should follow through on its earlier agreement to utilize a mediator.