Police union's dispute with town of Stillwater heading to court

Monday, April 21, 2014
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— A dispute between the town of Stillwater and its police union over termination of a part-time officer will go to state Supreme Court.

The town earlier this month filed a lawsuit against the Stillwater Town Organized Police in state Supreme Court in Ballston Spa, seeking to prevent it taking the matter to arbitration.

At issue is the status of Officer Jason Monell, a part-time patrolman whose job was eliminated in the 2014 town budget. Another officer not named in the lawsuit also had his job eliminated, as part of what the town says was a reorganization.

The union is seeking to have Monell reinstated.

Monell filed a grievance with the town as required under the union contract, alleging the elimination of his job was a form of discipline subject to due process under the contract.

The town rejected that position, saying the job was eliminated as part of a reorganization of the part-time staff.

The union has sought to have the matter arbitrated by the state Public Employee Relations Board, leading the town to go to court to try to prevent arbitration.

Following provisions spelled out in the contract, Monell on Jan. 5 filed a grievance with Police Chief Dennis Latham, who rejected it. That decision was appealed to the two-member police commission, which rejected it Jan. 31.

The town, in court papers, contends that the next step should have been an appeal to the Town Board within 30 days, but that never happened so the union can’t seek arbitration.

Town Supervisor Edward Kinowski and Councilwoman Lisa Bruno, who are the police commissioners, said in their Jan. 31 decision that the discipline hearing process doesn’t apply to the situation because Monell was not disciplined for his job performance.

They said the town, in its 2014 budget, cut the number of part-time police officers, and the job eliminations were done based on seniority. Under the reorganization, the town plans to have fewer part-time police officers, but those with jobs will be working more hours, which the town says will improve consistency, evidence-handling and follow-through.

S.T.O.P. President Michael Sharadin on Friday said he had not seen the town’s court filing, so he could not comment.

He said Monette had worked for the Stillwater Police Department for about five years.

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