>Milford mayor disputes union fight price tag. Sources say City spent $130,000 on battle.
Mayor disputes union fight price tag.
Milford spent $130,000 on battle, sources say

Brian McCready, Register StaffMay 01, 2003
MILFORD — The city spent almost $130,000 in two years to defend its contractual position against the police union, according to sources, but Mayor James Richetelli and the city attorney vehemently dispute that spending is so high.
The city and the police union are in the final stages of a bitter two-year dispute over a new contract for the department’s 107 officers. An arbitrator is scheduled to award a new four-year contact later this month.

While multiple sources familiar with the talks said city officials have acknowledged that the process, including arbitration, has cost about $130,000, City Attorney Marilyn Lipton claimed the city "is not expending that kind of money."

"That’s absurd," Lipton said, when asked about $130,000 in expenses. "That’s totally bogus."

Lipton also said, however, that the city has not specifically tracked how much money it spent on the police contract matter. She said a better estimate would likely be about $50,000.

The total cost includes legal fees, testimony of experts, work of police Chief Thomas Flaherty and Inspector William Schultz, paying overtime to cover police shifts during contract talks, and costs associated with the arbitration process, sources said.

Richetelli maintained that the cost of arbitration is "nowhere near" $130,000, but he could not provide an exact figure. He said all negotiations require costs and admitted that because the process has been ongoing for two years, the cost was more than routine negotiations.

Police Union President Jeffrey Matchett said if the city did spend $130,000 in the contract battle, he believes police officers and taxpayers have been "done a great injustice."

The union has claimed in legal papers that the city and union are only $44,992 apart on the value of the four-year contract. City officials have said the union’s claim is false.

"They’re spending three times that amount to fight us in arbitration than it would have taken to settle the contract," Matchett said. "The rank-and-file is definitely going to be upset and this shows how personal the negotiations have been."

The police union claims its average salary of $44,900 is far below neighboring communities, while city officials argue its wage and benefits package for officers is superior to comparable communities.

Alderman Lloyd Fleming, D-5, said a $130,000 price tag for the contract talks would be a "travesty to the townspeople."

Fleming said since the union and city were only $44,992 apart on the value of a new contract, it seems foolhardy to spend more on talks.

"It’s not good business to slap our officers in the face and say we don’t respect you," Fleming said. "The administration should be ashamed of themselves and are losers on this one, and the taxpayers need to know this."

The mayor declined to respond to Fleming’s remarks.

Brian McCready can be reached at bmccready@nhregister.com, or 876-6800.

İNew Haven Register 2003

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