The costly settlement the Collins administration and Toledo City Council approved this week with police command officers was a legal surrender that avoided a possibly much larger payout.
Still, the $1.27 million that will be split among 149 police sergeants, lieutenants, and captains could have been used to resurface at least five miles of residential streets or kept the city’s pools open for at least four summers.
But Mayor D. Michael Collins, a former police patrolmen union president, said it was the right move to end a five-year battle between the Toledo Police Command Officers Association and the city.
The union objected to former Mayor Mike Bell’s “exigent circumstances” legislation of 2010, which he used to force concessions from nearly all city unions.
Mr. Bell said previously he demanded concessions because the union presidents insisted he lay off police and other employees rather than agree to cuts that would preserve jobs.
The command officers fought the longest — waging a legal battle by itself while other unions gave up on the fight. The union won the most recent court case, and there was no guarantee the city would have even been given a chance to fight again, said City Law Director Adam Loukx.
The Ohio 6th District Court of Appeals, in a 33-page decision released in September, 2014, sided with the union against Toledo. It was the last in a series of legal cases and motions that left taxpayers liable to repay the union for losses from “exigent circumstances” that were unilaterally imposed on its contract.
“We asked the Supreme Court of Ohio to take a look at the case, and they have discretionary care, and they have not ruled on that,” Mr. Loukx said. “We are going to dismiss that. Had they decided to hear the case, in theory we could have won, but if we lost, we were done.”
Winning would have still left the sides locked in a case in federal court. “The one in federal court, which was a claim brought under the U.S. Constitution, that it was impairment of contract … was looming on the horizon,” he said.
Mr. Loukx said the city ran the risk of facing an arbitrator.
“The 6th District Court of Appeals found that exigent circumstances didn’t apply and in light of that, assuming that held, an arbitrator would have almost certainly found that the contract was violated since we did violate it,” he said.
The bottom line: “It could very easily have doubled the amount,” Mr. Loukx said.
The city could have been made to pay the union’s legal fees and interest on the money, neither of which it has to do under the settlement.
The city did not incur any extra legal fees since staff attorneys handled the case. Essentially, Toledo got a tax-free, five-year loan from the union members, city officials said.
A majority of council agreed with the law director, and after discussing it in executive session Tuesday, it voted 9-1 in favor of the Toledo Police Command Officers Association settlement. Councilman Tom Waniewski cast the no vote while Rob Ludeman and Lindsay Webb were not present.
Mr. Waniewski said he would have opted to continue the legal battle.
Council President Paula Hicks-Hudson, a lawyer, was not on council when the city declared its exigent circumstances.
“I felt there could have been another way to reduce those costs to the city rather than do the exigent circumstances,” she said. “I don’t know if layoffs were the only other option. I believe there were other options they could have used to work with the union to come up with a solution.”
Under the settlement, the top 20 payments range from $12,942 to $11,397. Ninety-eight officers will get at least $9,000 each. The settlements were disbursed largely based on each employee’s salary.
Contact Ignazio Messina at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6171 or on Twitter @IgnazioMessina.