City of MLT ordered to provide back pay to disciplined police officers

By Doug Petrowski

A hearing examiner for the state’s Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) ordered the City of Mountlake Terrace to provide back pay and interest to three city police officers who were delayed wage step increases by disciplinary penalties in 2011. The ruling also ordered the city to resume bargaining with the police guild in issues of wage, discipline, collision reviews, and use of video surveillance at the police station.

Hearing Examiner Robin Romeo issued the ruling on Friday; the city is expected to appeal the decision to the full PERC within the next 30 days.

The ruling follows a number of high profile settlements made by the City of Mountlake Terrace over the past four years with a former police department sergeant, a former officer, and a former employee. Those three settlements totaled more than $1.5 million to the three defendants; the latest ruling is on a much smaller financial scale and is not expected to total more than $10,000.

Mountlake Terrace Police Officers’ Guild President Dan MacKenzie expressed frustration with the city. “I wish the Mountlake Terrace Police Officers and our guild did not have to be involved in all these fights with the city in order to have our basic labor and employment law rights recognized,” he said. “We just want to be treated fairly.”

The state’s PERC and its arbitrators hear hundreds of unfair labor practice grievances from public employee unions and guilds each year, said Mountlake Terrace City Manager John Caulfield, who asserted that grievances involving disciplinary issues with Mountlake Terrace city employees are rare. “Among our 280 employees we had three or four, five at the most, last year. We hardly have any disciplinary issues; we have outstanding employees,” he said.

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