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City of Cranston v. International Brotherhood of Police Officers

Superior Court of Rhode Island, Providence

December 9, 2019

CITY OF CRANSTON
v.
INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF POLICE OFFICERS, LOCAL NO. 301, by and through its President, MICHAEL CARAMANTE, and its Secretary, JOSE ALFONSO

          For Plaintiff: Stephen M. Robinson, Esq.

          For Defendant: Carly B. Iafrate, Esq.

          DECISION

          NUGENT, J.

         Before this Court is Plaintiff City of Cranston's (Plaintiff or the City) motion to vacate and stay an arbitration award (the Award) which was issued on November 20, 2017. Defendant International Brotherhood of Police Officers, Local No. 301, et al. (Defendant or the Union) objects to Plaintiff's motion and moves to confirm the Award. The Arbitrator found that the instant grievance was arbitrable and that the Plaintiff violated Sections 1 and 7B of the controlling collective bargaining agreement (the CBA). Jurisdiction is pursuant to G.L. 1956 §§ 28-9-18 and 28-9-17.

         I

         Facts and Travel

         A

         Background

         Beginning in 2002, the Rhode Island State Labor Relations Board certified the Union as the exclusive bargaining representative for all full-time Cranston police officers, as recognized by Section 1 of the CBA between the Union and the City. Arb. Award at 6. At all times relevant hereto, the CBA was in effect between the parties. Id. Officer Matthew Josefson (Josefson), a member of the Union bargaining unit, was promoted to sergeant on July 24, 2013 but demoted to patrol officer on November 24, 2013 after it was found that he had secretly taped conversations with certain Cranston Police Department (CPD) supervisors. Id. at 6-7. Josefson's demotion resulted from his agreement with the CPD in lieu of other discipline. Id. at 7. Following an internal investigation of the CPD ordered by the Mayor of Cranston, the Union learned of the demotion and requested to bargain on his behalf; however, efforts to negotiate were unsuccessful. Id. at 5.

         Josefson then retained private counsel and filed suit against the City on March 29, 2016 in U.S. District Court (DRI) excluding the Union as a party. Id. at 5. Josefson's attorney, Joseph F. Penza Jr., filed a complaint alleging due process violations, intentional infliction of emotional distress, tortious interference with a contractual relationship, and civil conspiracy. Id. at 12-13.

         On July 22, 2016, Josefson and the City reached a settlement after negotiations without the Union's involvement, and the court entered a consent judgment against the City. Id. at 14. The judgment ordered the City to pay $215, 000 including costs and attorneys' fees, reinstate Josefson to sergeant with the same shift assignment and seniority as if he had continuously served, and remove documents related to the charges or investigation from his record. Id. at 15. Thereafter, Josefson was reinstated to the rank of sergeant on July 25, 2016, and the number of sergeants reached twenty while the patrolman position remained vacant in conflict with the CBA. Id. at 15-16.

         Upon learning of the agreement, the Union sent the City a demand letter to bargain and the City declined, reasoning that no one was negatively affected by the action and that there was no violation to discuss. Id. at 16. On August 16, 2016, Mr. Escobar, the Union's Business Agent, and Mr. Santagata, the Union's president, filed a class action grievance. Id. The grievance alleged that the City entered into an agreement without bargaining with the Union thereby violating Section 1 of the CBA and requested that the City fill the patrol officer vacancy immediately and make the additional sergeant position permanent. Id. After Robert Coupe, Director of Administration for Mayor Fung, denied the grievance, the Union filed a timely demand for arbitration. Id. at 17.

         B

         Pre-Arbitration

         In their demand for arbitration, the Union contended that the subject matter was arbitrable because the City had violated Section 1 of the CBA by negotiating directly with a member of the Union and such a violation is prohibited by the recognitions clause contained in the CBA. Id. at 20-21. Because of this violation, the Union further argued that the City had a contractual duty to respond to the Union's request for ...


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