Almost a year after their negotiations with the Monrovia Police Officers’ Association reached an impasse, the Monrovia City Council voted unanimously to implement its “Last, Best and Final” offer at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
The MPOA has consistently asked for a 23.5 percent raise in salary and benefits and the Council increased its offer to a high of 16.5 percent over three and a half years, which the MPOA rejected.
By law an employer cannot unilaterally implement a multi-year contract so the Monrovia City Council decided to implement their “Last, Best and Final” offer, their original offer that raises compensation by an average of five percent and incorporates Monrovia’s new retiree medical program only until this July, when negotiations will begin again.
The city said the raises will cost $318,768 for the 2007-2008 fiscal year.
Dozens of POA members and supporters donned t-shirts emblazoned with “Prioritize Public Safety” and stood outside City Hall before the meeting with signs very similar to those that Arcadia police held during their demonstrations in December.
Monrovia POA members past and present, POA attorney Dieter Dammeier and citizens on both sides of the issue commented during the meeting, book ending city manager Scott Ochoa’s presentation that detailed how much the city spends on public safety (66 percent of the budget), fiscal responsibility as the top priority followed by public safety and the controversial Public Employee Retirement System benefit that the city uses to help calculate compensation.
“Just because everyone has PERS doesn’t mean we ought not count it,” said Ochoa.
While Ochoa said that seven of the 13 comparison cities use the PERS benefit to calculate compensation and the MPOA receives five percent above that average, the POA and Dammeier said that none of the other cities include the PERS benefit, meaning they are actually at the bottom of the list.
“These negotiations are unlike I have seen anywhere else,” said Dammeier who helped negotiate the 26 percent raise over four years that the Arcadia police recently received. “They’re designing this scam to look at some things and not at others.”
MPOA members and officers who left Monrovia for better pay and work conditions in other cities complained of long hours, understaffing and less pay.
“Why would people leave if police were compensated fairly?” said MPOA member Nick Manfredi.
While the MPOA said they are down 12 officers, a third of their patrol force, the city maintained that they are actually down four positions.
“It doesn’t make business sense to let highly-trained people leave,” said Director of the Peace Officers Research Association of California Los Angeles North Chapter Joe Flannagan. “The cost of training per year per police officer is $100,000.”
All MPOA members and supporters spontaneously walked out of the meeting at about 10:22 p.m. and the council made comments and passed the implementation of their offer at about 11 p.m., three and a half hours after the meeting began.
“It is difficult to be lied to your face by the people you work for,” said MPOA vice president Heath Harvey. “Their mind was made up and we didn’t need to listen to anymore of that because they weren’t being open and honest about it.”
“I’ve never been so disrespected in my time as a mayor,” said Mayor Rob Hammond. “For people to stand up and turn your back and walk out of the room is childish…If you don’t like what you hear there’s a thing called a recall election.”
Hammond also suggested that people could collect signatures and propose a ballot measure. Sierra Madre police officers drafted Measure P and are now supporting Measure U which would raise the utility tax to fund a raise.
“We’re hoping not to come to that because I don’t know if the citizens would want that, but what we have discussed in our offers to the city is binding arbitration,” said Harvey. “The city says no way.”
Councilman Tom Adams compared Dammeier to the musical character The Music Man, “stirring up a problem for a fee” but Harvey said they will “absolutely” continue to use their attorney when the negotiations resume in July.