ONTARIO — The City of Ontario’s police union officially filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the City of Ontario on Friday, alleging the city has violated Oregon Revised Statute regarding collective bargaining with union employees. The complaint is due to the city’s residency resolution for employees which passed on Feb. 28, 2018, and enforcement of the rule on union employees without first allowing collective bargaining on the matter.
The complaint also alleges that top city officials repeatedly told police officers and union officials that the residency issue would not likely be enforced. However, it was later enforced despite a demand to bargain and subsequent grievance filed over the refusal by the city to work out the matter with its police union.
The complaint alleges that the refusal to bargain “has directly harmed” some police officers “and will continue to directly harm the officers without relief from” the State of Oregon’s Employment Relations Board.
The complaint further alleges inconsistent handling of its residency requirement on the city’s part.
Elizabeth Lemoine, attorney for the city’s police union, the Ontario Police Association, told The Argus Observer in December of 2019 that the city’s action had left the association “no choice,” and the filing has been pending since then.
The six page complaint filed with the Employment Relations Board on Friday by the association alleges that the City of Ontario has “refused to bargain collectively in good faith” with union representatives over the matter of requiring police officers to adhere to the city’s residency policy.
It goes on to spell out that the day after the city enacted Policy No. 2018-112, the union reached out to City Manager Adam Brown demanding “to bargain the impact of the change to working conditions,” and includes an exhibit showing that Brown agreed to the bargaining.
The complaint states that later that day, Brown and Lemoine talked over the phone with Brown stating “he did not know if the Policy would be applied to police officers hired after” the rule went into effect. Due to the uncertainty the association did not demand to immediately bargain the matter.
The complaint further states that Brown sometime around July of 2018 told Association President Chris Bolyard that “the resolution would not be a big deal as it would not be enforced once the association fought it.”
The complaint alleges that the residency rule wasn’t posted until Aug. 15, 2018, days after Sam D’Addabbo applied for a job as a police officer.
It further states that when D’Addabbo was hired on Dec. 18, 2018, former Police Chief Cal Kunz said the policy wouldn’t likely be enforced. Furthermore, it states that D’Addabbo was never made to sign anything contractual about his residency and was never informed during the hiring process that he would need to relocate as a condition of employment.
It wasn’t until 11 months after D’Addabbo was hired, on Nov. 13 that the city contacted him about his residency. This was done via letter from Ontario’s Human Resource Manager, Peter Hall.
On. Nov. 25, 2019, Lemoine, Brown, Ontario City Attorney Larry Sullivan, D’Addabbo and secretary/treasurer Jon Larenson met to discuss the objection of the enforcement of its residency requirement against D’Addabbo.
Sullivan said the Ontario City Council would be discussing the matter the next day.
The union was informed on Nov. 27, 2019 by Brown that the city had made the decision to enforce the policy and had authorized him to terminate D’Addabbo if he did not comply within five days.
The complaint says this forced D’Addabbo to get a place in Ontario to comply, and that since then he has been living in two residences: within the required boundaries during the work weeks and returning to his wife and 2-year-old daughter on weekends.
“The separation has caused extreme anxiety and emotional and financial stress to his family,” the complaint states.
The union tried to renew its demand to bargain the residency rule in November of 2018 after learning it was showing up in advertisements for police officers. Brown conferred with Adam Collier, another attorney for the city, who responded to Lemoine via email declining to bargain as the request was untimely.
On Dec. 4, 2019, the union filed a Step 1 Grievance against the city’s enforcement of the policy against D’Addabbo; the grievance was denied and is scheduled for arbitration on May 8.
Nothing has been put on hold
Typically when a union is fighting a rule or arbitration is pending over one, municipalities wait to take further steps on enacting policies until the matter has resolved in court. However, according to Chris Bolyard, president of the Ontario Police Association, that has not played out.
“It is the Association’s position that until the residency matter is considered by an arbitrator, that all enforcement should cease, however the city is still attempting to enforce rules that have never been set in place. We firmly believe enforcement should cease, as our grievance was denied solely on the basis of the City’s claim the Association was untimely, which is not accurate.”
One of these instances is in a follow-up letter written by Hall delivered to D’Addabbo during a meeting with Brown.
The letter, which is included in exhibits provided to the Employee Relations Board, requests that D’Addabbo further explain his residency and states that although the city received a copy of D’Addabbo’s change of address, “there have been conflicting reports about whether you have taken residency in Oregon.”
As with the final determination in its decision to enforce the residency requirement on D’Addabbo, the city again gave the officer five days to remedy the matter or face disciplinary action. This time, the city requested that D’Addabbo provide an Oregon driver’s license by Feb. 10 in order to prove residency.
On Feb. 24, Hall sent D’Addabbo a letter stating the city was commencing a formal investigation as required in the city’s collective bargaining agreement. D’Addabbo was to meet with the city for an interview on Feb. 28. The outcome of that interview is currently unknown.
“The way the residency issue has been enforced has been different for each employee that it has affected” Bolyard previously wrote in an email to the Argus on Feb. 18.
Several examples of this are cited in the complaint that was filed. This includes the hiring of officers Tyler Bullington and Adam Clinton, on Sept. 24. 2019 who were both allegedly told by Ontario Police Chief Steven Romero that it was unlikely the city would enforce the policy. Both later found out, however, that was not the case. Bullington was informed via letter in December that the city intended to enforce its residency rule against him. Clinton later signed an acknowledgement that he would comply with the policy. According to the union’s complaint, this was the first time the city had ever had any employee sign a document about compliance.
The complaint furthermore alleges that Veronica Pantaleon, a former employee of the city who was re-hired on Aug. 27, 2019 has not had to comply with the rule, although according to the resolution, she should have to.
Furthermore the complaint states that police chiefs themselves, who are already mandated by city charter to live within city limits, have been able to bend the rule. One example given was of Kunz who, “held a second residence” in Utah, where he lived on his days off with his family during his entire tenure. The most recent example cited, however, is of Romero. The complaint alleges he is currently building a second residence in the Marsing area, “outside of the 30-minute response time area and outside of the policy.”
A request for comment from Romero regarding such an endeavor
was unreturned by press time.
Brown, however, explained during a phone interview this morning that to his knowledge Romero wasn’t planning on moving to Marsing and that “it doesn’t matter if he wants to own homes elsewhere,” because Romero has residency in Oregon.
“He owns a home here, lives here, his kids go to school here, he votes here and has a driver license here,” stated Brown.
Brown’s response to the complaint
In a phone interview this morning, Brown refuted the complaint’s allegations that he, Kunz and Romero had said the rule would not likely apply to police officers. Brown said that the union had “made that accusation earlier.” He further stated that he personally questioned both chiefs who “both denied” saying anything of the sort.
When asked why D’Addabbo was made to produce his driver license to prove residency and whether it was standard operating procedure to prove residency with a lease and license, Brown said they made an exception in D’Addabbo’s case “because the lease he provided was not a traditional lease.”
“There is no money being exchanged for it and it was from another person in the police department, so it drew questions,” Brown said. “The question is ‘Was he actually living there?’ and beyond that Oregon residency requires a driver license within 30 days.”
A quick check with the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles representative, however did not indicate that it was a requirement of the DMV.
When a person decides they will stay and become domiciled they are asked to start that process in 30 days, however the enforcement of the rule is not up to the DMV, the representative said. Instead it is up to law enforcement. And to prove an address to the DMV, the representative said a person would only need a piece of mail, an Amazon Package label, or proof from a roommate that they are living there.
When asked who decided to start an internal investigation over D’Addabbo’s residency, Brown stated that the investigation “is a procedure in their collective bargaining contract.”
“We had to follow that procedure,” he said.
As to whether he believes the city has followed the procedure regarding collective bargaining over the residency rule, Brown said, “Yes.”
“That’s why we have done everything, painstakingly gone through to follow the bargaining contract, taking a couple extra days here and an extra week there to make sure we’re following the contract,” he said.
When asked whether the city is having all employees produce leases and drivers licenses to prove residency, Brown responded, “We have to enforce it uniformly.”
As to Panteleon not having to live in city limits, Brown said that she has worked for the city for 14 years, and “due to no fault of her own the city contracted out public works, and she was rebadged [to a contract employee] and she was rebadged again [as a city employee when she came back to work for the fire department].”
When the decision making over the rule was being done, Brown had told the Council when asked that the rule would still apply for re-hires.
He has also confirmed that public works employees are specifically contractors and “we can’t force a contractor” to adhere to residency rules.
Brown alleges that Panteleon “never left as an employee of the ciy.”
‘We continue to wait for the city to make a reasonable decision’
Bolyard says the city has also already violated a standing fair labor practice when they attempted to have Officer D’Addabbo agree to “voluntary termination” if he did not move. This was found to be, “abhorrent to notions of fairness” and does “violence to the contractual just cause protection” by Roberta Golick in the City of Boston case.
“We have numerous other reasons which we would have gladly discussed during bargaining if the city had not decided to act unilaterally against their own attorneys’ legal advice,” Bolyard says. “We continue to wait for the city to make a reasonable decision, stop enforcement, come to the bargaining table and set the rules that should have been bargained in the first place.”
Another item up for bargain in other arbitration is a mechanism for hardship exceptions to the residency rule, according to Bolyard.
“Since the City acted unilaterally there is no mechanism for it in the City of Ontario. We have submitted a letter to the City Council asking for a hardship exception, for one of our members, but have not heard anything back from them. We find it astounding that they would create a rule with no framework for how the rule is to be followed.
“That is what the bargaining was meant for but they totally ignored it, hence arbitration.” Bolyard continued. “We did not want to go to arbitration but the city has tied our hands in this matter.”