While the Turlock City Council voted to approve new employment contracts with a variety of labor groups, the proposed Turlock Associated Police Officers (TAPO) contract was removed from the agenda. TAPO, among others, raised issues of mistrust with the City in recent weeks for a variety of reasons.
A pay increase, reportedly requested and approved by City Manager Roy Wasden, was given to TAPO prior to a formal contract being signed; to some, the unannounced raise appeared to be a ploy to sway TAPO’s vote. They ultimately rejected the contract.
Councilmember Amy Bublak questioned the legality of the premature TAPO raises, without ratifying a contract.
“I’m concerned that there’s been a couple issues… specifically utilizing utility bills, things of that nature, paying people before we vote, we haven’t ratified contracts,” said Bublak at the Oct. 14 Council meeting. “I think it’s important to show the public and our employees that we’re hearing you and I think, respectfully, that we should have an outside investigation and hold off on doing this until we’ve proven to the public that we trust everybody and that everybody is doing right.”
The outside attorney present explained that in some cases, benefits of a contract are granted prematurely with the expectation that it will be approved; the contracts are then backdated to reflect any benefits received prior.
Bublak motioned for an outside investigation wishing to wait until it concluded to vote on the City Manager and City Attorney contracts because of the public’s perception of mistrust in relation to the contracts; no members seconded.
Her other concern was that related to the Measure B insert sent in the September utility bills, that the FPPC is currently reviewing.
Councilmember Bill DeHart, who wished to move forward with negotiations and contracts at the previous meeting, raised concerns relating to how issues of distrust might be resolved if the City wants to work toward successful negotiations with labor groups.
“Somehow we have to achieve some sort of common ground, as a result of our actions [with the approval of City Manager and City Attorney contracts]…with TAPO so that there is a level of confidence going into those negotiations that their interests are being considered,” said DeHart.
Russ Holeman, TAPO Union President, said previously that the group wanted an opportunity to negotiate for themselves as promised in May.
Holeman explained the union’s dissatisfaction with the City's handling of labor contracts because of the inclusion of “me-too” clauses, where various unions are offered the same benefits, not necessarily individualized contracts. He noted that with the inclusion of these clauses, he would have a difficult time getting the union to sign off.
Some of the dissatisfaction, Holeman said, stems from the City’s stated goal of being equitable in pay, and not following through. He explained that salaries were 20 to 30 percent behind seven years ago and are still 20 to 30 percent behind.
When asked about the pending negotiations between TAPO and the City, Holeman stated that while he is unable to comment on the specifics of any proposed contract, “TAPO and the City are continuing to work together on a contract that is fair to both sides.”
The Turlock City Council will meet Tuesday, Oct. 28th for closed session labor negotiations with the TAPO to negotiate new employment contracts after the vote to approve the contract previously offered was taken off the agenda.
While the labor negotiations will not be open to the public, the Turlock City Council will hold a public meeting Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. at City Hall, in the Yosemite Room, at 156 S. Broadway.