Crestwood Board of Aldermen again postpones decision on MOU with city firefighters

Staff Report

The Crestwood Board of Aldermen last week again delayed a decision on whether to adopt a new, three-year memorandum of understanding with city firefighters.

Aldermen discussed the MOU in a closed session following their regular meeting Aug. 23 but took no votes.

An ordinance approving the agreement was included on the board’s open session agenda last week, but “some additional problems” with the MOU warranted postponement until the next board meeting, Acting City Administrator/Director of Public Services Jim Eckrich said.

Negotiating teams for the city and Local 2665 of the International Association of Fire Fighters have been hashing out a new MOU for some time.

Aldermen voted unanimously in June 2010 to have legislation drafted to adopt a new MOU. Local 2665 and city officials had negotiated an agreement over the course of roughly one year before it was first presented to the board June 22, 2010. The previous agreement was negotiated in 2006.

However, the two parties reopened negotiations after aldermen a year ago defeated a series of changes to the city’s Civil Service Rules and Regulations relating to layoffs, employee political activity and alcohol and controlled substance policies. Officials said at the time that the union agreed on the proposed MOU with the understanding that aldermen would approve the modifications to the civil service rules.

Earlier this year, Kurt Becker, a vice president with Local 2665, disclosed that the city and the union were at odds over whether to copy the Crestwood Charter’s section on employee political activity into the new MOU. The city’s governing document prohibits employees from soliciting “any contribution for the campaign fund of any candidate for Crestwood city office or take part in the political campaign of any candidate for Crestwood city office.”

It permits employees to “exercise their right as private citizens to express opinions and if a qualified voter in Crestwood, to sign a nominating petition for any city candidate and to vote in any city election …”

Local 2665 is of the opinion that the City Charter language infringes on an employee’s constitutional right to free speech and assembly, Becker said this spring.

In an Aug. 1 memo to Eckrich, Fire Chief Karl Kestler wrote that negotiating teams agreed to use language from the previous MOU’s section on political activity.

The previous agreement encourages city employees “to exercise their right to vote” but prohibits use of their position or city resources “to aid a political candidate, political party or political cause …”

Kestler also wrote that negotiating teams agreed to refer to the employee drug policy in the civil service rules “and a side letter will be sent to the union indicating that at this point, the policy does not apply to any of the union members, however, if the city decides to expand the policy to include all employees, the city will meet and confer with the union before implementing.”