Earlier this week, Scituate selectmen voted to advance a measure designed to withdraw the town from the Quinn Bill program.
The vote came in the midst of contract negotiations with the police union and a lawsuit by Scituate police officers seeking payment under the Quinn Bill, which increases officers’ pay as they earn advanced degrees.
The Selectmen’s decision puts the question on a warrant to appear before the Town meeting on April 12. According to town administrator Patricia Vinchesi, if residents approve the measure, it would take effect immediately after the vote.
The attorney for the police officers, Michael J. Sacchitella, said withdrawing from the Quinn Bill would be illegal. Sacchitella cited a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court case that held the town of Dracut couldn’t pull out of the Quinn Bill. “A town can’t revoke acceptance of the bill for any reason,” Sacchitella said in a phone interview with the Boston Globe.
But David Baier, director of the legislative division at the Massachusetts Municipal Association, said state law allows cities and towns to pull out of agreements like the Quinn Bill unless the law specifically states otherwise.
According to the Boston Globe, Scituate’s cost from the Quinn is approximately $240,000, half of which is supposed to be reimbursed by the state. Scituate paid half, about $120,000, in July. But following the state’s decision to slash funding for the Quinn Bill, the town did not make the second payment, which was due in January.
The police contract, which has expired, says that officers will not receive the second half the payment if the state funding falls through, Sacchitella said, but the lawsuit argues the officers should be paid anyway. “We want a judge to declare that nobody can negotiate away a right that these officers have under the Quinn Bill,” he said.
The measure is scheduled to be reviewed by an advisory committee before the warrant articles are printed for the April 12th meeting.
-Attorney John J. MacLaughlan