December 1, 2021

City police lack contract

Negotiations ongoing for new pact

Photos by Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Cortland city patrolmen Trevor Wenz, center, and Eric Perine, right, respond to a disturbance Thursday on a Greyhound bus at the Cortland County Office Building. Officers with the Cortland City Police Department, without a contract since 2015, have been working under the terms of an expired contract, said Officer Jeffrey Fitts, president of the department’s Police Benevolent Association.

CORTLAND — Over the past three years, 2015 through 2017, the city police department has responded to more than 61,000 calls — without a contract.

Cortland City Police Department officers have been working since 2015 under the terms of an expired contract, said Officer Jeffrey Fitts, president of the department’s Police Benevolent Association, the union.

The negotiations, which came to an impasse and were sent to arbitration last year, have no timeline for a settlement.

“Everybody still has a job to do,” Fitts said March 13.

A Cortland police vehicle patrols city streets Thursday.

Fitts said negotiations are going on between the union and the city. “We’re currently in arbitration negotiations,” he said.

Arbitration negotiations are the final step of the impasse procedure for police, firefighters, some transit and certain other employees, and provides for compulsory arbitration, according to the state Public Employment Relations Board.

Both Mayor Brian Tobin and Mack Cook, director of city administration and finance, said a gag order bars the parties from publicly commenting on details of the negotiations. The talks take time and Fitts doesn’t know when they’ll conclude. “It’s a slow process,” he said.

61,000 calls

• According to the Cortland Police Department, officers responded to 39,809 service calls between 2015 and 2016. The department answered close to 22,000 calls in 2017.

Jonathan O’Rourke, executive director of the state Public Employment Relations Board, said the two organizations are in interest arbitration, a process where issues not resolved in contract negotiations may be presented to an impartial arbitrator for resolution. In February 2017, an arbitrator was assigned to the case and beyond that the state Public Employment Relations Board has not been involved.

The expired contract that was approved in November 2012 was a three-year pact that gave police a 1 percent raise each year. Police agreed to pay 16 percent of their health-care premiums and to move insurance coverage to the Tompkins County Health Care Consortium to save money. It reduced the number of unused sick days an employee needed to qualify for lifetime health insurance to 180 from 230, with the city paying half that premium.