In Town of Salisbury v. New England Police benevolent Association, locals 15 and 35, a Superior court Judge took the extraordinary step of striking down an arbitrators decision on the grounds that it imposed a heavy burden financially on the town.
Superior Court Judge Howard J. Whitehead in deciding the case stated “ if the subject officer used all of his sick time in his first year with the Salisbury police dept. and then resigned, the Town would have been required to pay him what amounts to a years pay for one half year of total service to the town. The imposition of such a disproportionate burden on the Town concomitant with the award of such an unjustified windfall to the employee ‘transcends rationale limits’ and violates public policy”.
The agreement between the Town of Salisbury and The New England Police Benevolent assoc. locals 15 and 35 provided that “creditable service for purpose of vacation time and sick leave” would be granted to the employees which included such leave as may be included as buyback time from prior service with another state, county, or municipal law enforcement agency so long as it was accepted by the Essex county regional retirement board. After a grievance filed in 2007 an arbitrator awarded employees 15 days for each year of eligible service. The town appeals the arbitrators award as exceeding its authority under G.L. c. 150C, sect. 11.
The Judge did bring up an interesting point however, stating “ in theory, then, and officer who served for example, ten years in another jurisdiction and one year in Salisbury and who earned and used 15 days per year in the first jurisdiction, could end up having earned and used a total of 315 days of sick time for eleven years of combined service…..or an average of 29 days per year”. The flaw in the collective bargaining agreement is one that could present a windfall for the individual officers in that case. However, is appears that the towns attorneys in allowing such a provision into the contract without addressing the issue committed a very costly error. Simply because someone receives bad legal advice does not entitle them to nullifying the deal they signed and agreed to. There is no fundamental “right” to ultimate hindsight fairness in contracts. If that be the case, then maybe everyone who bought stock in the late 1990’s should be entitled to all their money back from ill advised investments? Each side agrees to a provision because it is the one they believe benefits them. I would expect that on appeal this decision will not be affirmed.
Attorney Ronald. A. Sellon