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Feb 19, 2013 5:39 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Quogue PBA Files Grievance Over Use Of Part-Time Officers During Hurricane

Feb 20, 2013 12:54 PM

The Quogue Police Benevolent Association has filed a grievance with the Quogue Village Board alleging that the municipality violated its contract with the union by using part-time police officers during Hurricane Sandy without first offering full-time officers overtime.

Reynold Mauro, an attorney based in Commack who represents the village PBA, said a section of the contract stipulates that before part-time police officers can be used for special overtime work, full-time officers must be solicited for their availability. He said that during Hurricane Sandy last fall, two part-time officers were called in, though several full-time officers, including some who were going off-duty at the time, were not offered the extra hours.

“Had they been offered to stay and they refused—there would be no issue,” Mr. Mauro said during the Board of Trustees meeting on Friday, February 15. “But the offer was not extended to the officers, and that’s really the nature of the grievance.”

Quogue Mayor Peter Sartorius disputed Mr. Mauro’s claim that Hurricane Sandy qualified as special overtime work under that section of the contract. He said the section highlighted in the complaint was referring to state- and county-funded duties, such as seat belt and DWI checks.

He also pointed out that a section of the PBA contract states that part-time officers may be employed without restriction during an emergency.

Mr. Mauro said he sent a letter outlining the complaint to Quogue Police Chief Robert Coughlan on January 24. Chief Coughlan responded in a letter dated January 29, stating that he did not believe the contract had been violated for the same reasons offered by the mayor on Friday afternoon. Chief Coughlan also wrote that the intent of that particular section of the contract was to prevent part-time staff from being awarded “details requiring a level of work product that should be set aside for full-time members.”

“It wasn’t that we were trying to circumvent overtime, because we spent a lot on overtime,” he said during last week’s meeting. “But we also had part-timers available, and we used them as well.”

Mr. Sartorius said the village spent approximately $5,600 on police overtime during the hurricane and in the days after the storm made landfall. In his letter, Chief Coughlan wrote that he would have limited part-time officers to eight-hour tours, but said he inadvertently surpassed that limit due to communication difficulties experienced during the storm and “administrative oversight.”

Mr. Sartorius said on Tuesday that the Village Trustees, who discussed the grievance in executive session after the public portion of last week’s meeting, would have a decision ready at the next meeting on Friday, March 22.

“The grievance is not about money,” Mr. Mauro said. “We’re not seeking 10 cents.”

Also on Friday, the board unanimously approved a local law that would allow the village to exceed the state-mandated 2 percent tax levy cap, if necessary, when compiling next year’s operating budget. Mr. Sartorius stressed that the law did not signify that the board planned to adopt a spending plan that would exceed the cap, but that it provided the opportunity to do so if the board found it necessary.

Board members took the same action last year, though they eventually adopted a $7.4 million budget that did not exceed the tax levy cap.

The board also unanimously approved another local law that requires property owners to apply for an updated certificate of occupancy before using any building after a change of ownership, unless one was issued within the 120 days before the transaction.

At their March 22 meeting, board members will hold a public hearing on a proposed law that would require residents to obtain approval from Quogue’s Design Review Board before changing the material appearance—including the color—of a building.

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A municipality has a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers, not the PD.
By bigfresh (4661), north sea on Feb 21, 13 9:30 PM