The Turlock Associated Police Officers union has filed a breach of contract lawsuit against the City of Turlock, after the union says the city failed to honor the expiration of a clause that took a portion of the union members' salary.
According to the TAPO President Officer Russell Holeman, the organization filed suit against the City of Turlock for continuing to enforce a sunset clause that had expired on Oct. 31, 2012.
The clause, which was part of a negotiated contract between TAPO and the City of Turlock since 2007, required TAPO members to contribute 9 percent of their monthly income towards the California Public Employees Retirement System. When the contract expired, the City of Turlock failed to honor the expiration date and continued to take the 9 percent from the members’ monthly salary, Holeman said, resulting in a $45,000 loss for TAPO members as a whole.
“We did not have a contract in place on Nov. 1, 2012, so the sunset clause had officially expired,” said Holeman. “The city chose not to enforce that and continued to take 9 percent throughout the month of November. Although we did have a new contract in place by Dec. 1, 2012 that we agreed to continue paying that 9 percent towards PERS, it should not have been taken out during the month of November.”
Although the City of Turlock did not honor the expiration of the monthly salary contribution by union members, the city did honor other expiring sunset clauses that occurred on the same date, such as a 4.5% equity adjustment given to all city employees.
“They were picking and choosing what aspects of the contract they wanted to honor,” said Holeman. “This course of action made it difficult to stay on the same page.”
After the error was discovered, TAPO filed a grievance claim with city personnel which was forwarded to Turlock City Manager Roy Wasden. According to TAPO’s legal representative Paul Konsdorf of Goyette & Associates, Wasden ruled against the grievance claim.
Members of TAPO then decided to file a breach of contract claim with the City of Turlock on May 2. The claim was not rejected, however, the City did not take action within a legal time frame of 45 days, thus passing the claim to the Stanislaus County Superior Court by operation of law. The case was filed with the Stanislaus County Superior Court on July 17.
“The city did not respond in one way or another,” said Holeman. “After looking at the agenda minutes from city council meetings since we filed our claim with them, nothing showed that they ever rejected it. The council never even voted on it, and so by default decided to take no action.”
Holeman also said that in previous negotiation contracts with the city, sunset clauses such as this one had been honored, and that it was evidently a decision to not honor it this time.
“We tried to work with the city, but they didn’t honor the contract and weren’t willing to work with us,” said Holeman.
The City of Turlock would not comment on the claim filed by TAPO.
“Due to pending litigation, the city has no comment at this time,” said Turlock City Attorney Phaedra Norton.
A hearing on the case is scheduled for 3 p.m. Nov. 25 at the Stanislaus County Superior Courthouse.
TAPO currently represents 94 men and women of the Turlock Police Department. To learn more about TAPO, visit turlockpolice.org.