The city of Pittsburgh’s representative on an arbitration panel sharply disagreed with an award that will allow the city’s rank-and-file police officers to live outside city limits, calling it unlawful.
Joseph A. Quinn represented the city on the three-member panel that took up the residency question after the requirement was challenged by the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 1.
He declined to sign the award, which gives officers permission to live within a radius of 25 air miles from the City County Building, Downtown. John Skonier, the neutral arbitrator, signed the award Thursday and Bryan Campbell, who represents the police union on the panel, signed it today. With the two’ signatures, it became official today.
Mr. Quinn wrote in a one-page dissenting opinion that the panel exceeded its authority in lifting the residency requirement. State law, he wrote, meant to leave the residency question up to the city.
“Nothing in the legislation suggested it should be negotiated, or left to an Act 111 arbitration panel,” he wrote. Given that all other city employees are required to reside in city limits, he said the union failed to present reasons why only police officers should be exempt from the requirement and called it “discrimination in favor of police” without a lawful basis.
He also wrote the award “is wrong because it totally ignores the history of this issue, as well as the present will of [city voters].”
He pointed out that a referendum, which asked city voters whether they’d like to make the residency requirement a part of the city’s charter, passed overwhelmingly in November.
Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Highland Park, issued a statement today echoing Mr. Quinn’s sentiments and saying that he too felt the arbitrator’s award went against the intention of the law.
At the center of the debate are two Pennsylvania laws — one called Act 195 that switched the language regarding Pittsburgh police residency and one called Act 111 that involves arbitration and collective bargaining.
Act 195 switched the language of the law to say a city may require a police officer to be a resident rather than must.
“It was always the intent of the Legislature that it would remain a matter for Pittsburgh City Council through city ordinance to decide,” Mr. Ferlo said.
He said that while Act 111 allows rules about the removal or discipline of a police officer to be the subject of collective bargaining and arbitration, “There is no such affirmative language on residency, leaving only one conclusion: that residency is not subject to collective bargaining or an arbiters decision.”
“The state law changed to empower Pittsburgh City Council and the Mayor’s office to make local decisions that are in the best interest of the citizens they represent. The law was not changed to afford a third party arbiter a chance to provide city police officers with a chance to flee the city,” Mr. Ferlo said.
Tim McNulty, spokesman for Mayor Bill Peduto, said the administration had not yet decided whether to appeal the decision to the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas.
Moriah Balingit: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-2533 or on Twitter @MoriahBee. First Published March 14, 2014 2:32 PM