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Jo Clifton is the Politics Editor for the Austin Monitor.
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Friday, October 19, 2018 by Jo Clifton
Casaday scolds Council over lack of contract
The president of the Austin Police Association lashed out at City Council during Thursday’s meeting over the city’s failure to reach an agreement with the union over police officers’ pay and benefits.
“I want everybody on the Council to know that we’ve been waiting over 290 days to sit back down and work out our labor contract. We’ve worked out (Major League Soccer), we’ve worked out all kinds of huge issues, except now we’re saving money on our officers’ backs to balance the budget,” APA leader Ken Casaday said.
“It’s unacceptable,” Casaday said. “I had 300 officers in my hall yesterday pissed off that we have not sat down to go over our contract,” he shouted.
“We’ve been waiting, and there’s nothing but foot-dragging and a waste of time by this Council. We need to get back and get this contract done immediately. I hope you understand my anger. Because we had three officers leave last week to go to Seguin, Texas, Colorado Springs and Leander. That’s a waste of money,” he said, because the Council and the manager have failed to work on the contract.
“We need to get back, get it done because the money you’re saving is walking out the door and going to other departments,” he concluded.
After hearing near unanimous condemnation of the proposed new contract in December, 2017, Council voted unanimously to reject the contract. It was the first time a Council has rejected a negotiated contract with the police association in 20 years. The major issue for those opposing the contract was lack of accountability and an inadequate police monitoring system.
Although the city offered to continue the contract they had with the APA prior to negotiating the contract that failed to win approval, officers rejected the offer and in so doing gave up a considerable amount of money, especially for officers previously receiving specialty pay.
Casaday was walking away from the podium to scattered applause and that would have been the end of it, but Council Member Jimmy Flannigan felt the need to respond.
“So, for the record, the union declined to extend the prior contract, which would have solved this problem,” Flannigan said, as Casaday began to argue with him from the audience. The situation deteriorated from there as Mayor Steve Adler and Flannigan tried to convince Casaday to stop arguing. However, that ended after a few minutes.
After the shouting match, Flannigan said, “I will say that the process for getting the contract signed was delineated very early, and we are on track. … I expect we will be back at the table in short order. We will have this thing signed, so I don’t understand why we have to yell and scream.”
The mayor asked City Manager Spencer Cronk to explain where they were in the process of getting back to the negotiating table with answers to questions about hiring new officers and police pay. Cronk said he would be meeting with Council members next week to give them a report on the issue.
Later in the day, the APA released a statement urging the public to direct the City Manager and the Council to return to the negotiating table.
In addition, the statement said: “What we saw today was raw emotion and a sense of urgency from a leader that is losing officers every week to other police departments caused by the manufactured schedule put forth by City of Austin management. The city has publicly communicated on multiple occasions that they are saving money for other programs by not being under contract with the police association. Our officers are frustrated and angry that the City Manager is balancing the city’s budget on the backs of the men and women whose sole job is to protect the citizens of this great community. We have men and women who are losing their homes, taking out loans to pay bills and spending a tremendous amount of time away from their families working overtime because we have been out of contract for over 290 days. Additionally, it has been over two months since the city has met with us.”
Photo from ATXN.
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Key Players & Topics In This Article
Austin City Council: The Austin City Council is the body with legislative purview over the City of Austin. It offers policy direction, while the office of the City Manager implements administrative actions based on those policies. Until 2012, the body contained seven members, including the city's Mayor, all elected at-large. In 2012, City of Austin residents voted to change that system and now 10 members of the Council are elected based on geographic districts. The Mayor continues to be elected at-large.
Austin Police Association: The organization that represents Austin Police officers.
city manager: The city manager oversees the administrative segment of the City of Austin and is one of four Council direct reports.