MINEOLA, N.Y (CN) – Republicans in the Nassau County Legislature excluded Democrats and the public to pass a law giving the County Executive the power to “take any action he deems necessary” to deal with a budget shortfall – including violating collective bargaining agreements, sheriff’s officers say in Nassau County Court.
The Nassau County Sheriff’s Correction Officers Benevolent Association sued the Nassau County Legislature, its Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt, and County Executive Edward Mangano, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief.
The union claims that on May 21, with Republicans holding a 10-9 majority, county lawmakers convened to ram through Local Law 315-2012.
Republican legislator Dennis Dunne was not present that day because he was recovering from surgery.
Dunne attended via speaker phone, but “No one present could see Dunne and there was no video connection with which to view him,” the complaint states. “Dunne, moreover, from his speaker phone location, seemed to be confused as to the events transpiring in the meeting hall. Plaintiffs have formed this belief based on Dunne’s repeatedly shouting ‘Dunne votes aye’ at inappropriate times.”
Mangano proposed Law 315 on April 30, after the county declared a “fiscal crisis” in December 2011, because it faced a $40 million shortfall, according to the complaint.
“Local Law 315-2012 authorizes the County Executive to ‘take any action he deems necessary’ so as to raise sufficient funds to cover this shortfall and includes a menu of nonexclusive potential actions,” the complaint states.
It continues: “Among the choices expressly available to the County Executive are the ability to:
“1. Relieve from duty any employees represented by a collective bargaining unit for one day per week;
“2. Modify any county contracts;
“3. Freeze base and supplemental wages for county employees;
“4. Reduce or eliminate employer contribution[s] to employee benefits.
“In sum, the County Executive would be given the authority to rewrite or eliminate the COBA’s collective bargaining agreement, eliminating working conditions hard won at the bargaining table over a period of many years.
“All these acts may be taken by the County Executive without prior negotiations with certified bargaining representatives. By its terms, Local Law 315-2012 becomes effective immediately upon passage.”
After the president of another labor union spoke against the proposed law, calling it unconstitutional, Schmitt rebuked the county’s own attorney, calling his opinions “sorely lacking” and “next to worthless,” according to the complaint.
Eventually, which Schmitt declared, “Let me tell you something. We’re gonna conclude this hearing and I’m not calling a vote today,” according to the complaint.
When Schmitt concluded, the union claims: “At this juncture, believing the meeting to be over, everyone left the meeting room.”
However, the complaint adds: “Unbeknownst to any attendees other than the legislators, Schmitt spoke by telephone with Mangano after the meeting was apparently adjourned. Following this conversation, Schmitt reconvened the legislators. No members of the public were present and no notice to the public was issued informing the public that the meeting had been reconvened.
“Dunne continued to attend only by speaker phone.
“The nine Democratic Party legislators left the room, leaving the nine Republican legislators, who voted to pass Local Law 315-2012.
“Local Law 315-2010 remains pending for Mangano’s signature. Under County Charter Section 153, should he not approve or disapprove the measure within 30 days, it will become a county law.”
The union wants the law declared void for illegal procedures, including lack of a quorum, illegal session, and open meeting violations.
It is represented by Howard Wien with Koehler and Isaacs of New York City.