Mount Kisco's Police Benevolent Association is suing the village, seeking to overturn an interest arbitration award granted this past spring.
In its lawsuit, filed on Aug. 29, the PBA makes several arguments for why the award should be overturned, included that the panel chair, I. Leonard Seiler, was biased, use evidence outside of the record for the decision and did not properly apply (and omitted) statutory criteria.
In addition to having the award vacated, the PBA wants its impasse with the village heard again before another interest arbitration panel, chaired by someone whom is decribed as being "neutral."
"The PBA understands that courts are reluctant to set aside interest arbitration awards, as they should be," the union's counsel writes. "The award in this proceeding, however, falls woefully short of the type of the type of compulsory interest arbitration award that can be confirmed. If this Court decides to not vacate this award, it will mean that no interest arbitration award will ever be vacated because this one fails at every level of analysis to comply with law and due process."
The village and the union have been without a deal since May 31, 2007 and the arbitration panel took up the matter in 2009. The award was issued to create collective bargaining terms due to the fact that neither side was able to reach a deal for June 1, 2007 to June 30, 2009. No award has been given for July 1, 2009 to the present.
The award retroactively set two wage levels, separating police who worked four or more years from those who worked less than four. Police in the former group would get salary increases starting off at 3.75 percent for the first year to 2 percent for the last six months of the period covered. Newer employees would get a 2-percent increase for the first six months of the period covered. The last year of their period would have a freeze.
The lawsuit argues that Seiler either did not correctly interpret statutory criteria apply it or specify it. Examples of getting criteria wrong, the PBA argues, included siding with the village on using other Westchester County villages as "comparable" jurisdictions, instead of Mount Kisco's immediate neighbors, which were named as Bedford New Castle, North Castle and Yorktown. The union also argued that Seiler failed to use the same comparable communities used in past talks, which included the four towns plus additional villages to what the Mount Kisco government named. Additionally, the PBA accuses Seiler of applying the criteria inconsistenly because he argued that Mount Kisco police work the second fewest days out of 22 Westchester villages, thus using a different comparison sample.
"Not only did he misinterpret the law, not only did he disregard what he said he would do, the Chairman changed the comparables when it suited his purpose," counsel wrote.
The union also believes that Seiler misinterpreted the legal criteria of "ability to pay" by focusing on broader economic problems rather than the village's specific financial condition, which it describes as being excellent.
In its suit, the PBA also takes issue with Seiler's broad arguments about municipalities struggling while public-sector employees have benefits above their private sector counterparts.
"This Chairman paints all municipalities as poor or broke or struggling. This is untrue. He paints all public employees, and particularly police officers, as over paid and under benefited. That is false."
Counsel adds, "He paints all taxpayers, regardless of individual or collective circumstances, as besieged and "unable"-not just unwilling or reluctant-to pay any more taxes than they presently do. That, too, is patently false."
Meanwhile, the union argues that the chair did not sufficiently address other criteria for an award, including comparison of policing to other professions, and "the interests and welfare of the public." It also argues that the chair used information not part of the record, such as a newspaper article in his decision to have a 15-percent health insurance contribution rate as part of the award.
Reached for comment Mayor Michael Cindrich said the village will respond to the suit. He hopes that the review process will be "expedited" so that there can be negotiations for compensation from 2009 to the present.
Copies of portions of the lawsuit are attached to this story as PDF files.