Firefighters pondering lawsuit over contract If 20-year retirement fails, union wants pact reopened

March 25, 1997|By Craig Timberg | Craig Timberg,SUN STAFF

The prospects of allowing Howard County police officers and firefighters to retire after 20 years on the job grew even more remote last night, but a legal battle is growing more likely.

The County Council's Republican majority -- long skeptical of the 20-year retirement that the county negotiated with county police and firefighters -- spoke not a word at a council work session on the issue last night.

"Some things are not worth saying," Councilman Darrel E. Drown, an Ellicott City Republican, said after the meeting.

Both unions, whose members now can retire after 25 years, had 20-year retirement as their top priorities in negotiations. Both made concessions to pay for the plan, which Republicans say would be too expensive.

Discussion has now turned to what happens to the rest of their contracts if the County Council rejects the retirement changes. For the firefighters at least, that question may go to court.

Deputy Chief Administrator Cecil Bray, chief negotiator for the administration, told the County Council that the firefighters' union may have to abide by other aspects of its contract -- even if the council rejects the retirement plan.

That has the firefighters' union talking about suing to reopen all aspects of its contract if the 20-year retirement plan is rejected.

"We meet with our attorney [tomorrow]," said Jeff Loomis, president of the firefighters' union.

The police union does not face that problem. Under its contract, if the council rejects 20-year retirement, the county automatically loses something it covets -- a new police schedule.

Police Chief James N. Robey wants to switch from a 9 1/2 -hour shift to a 12-hour one.

The change, he has told the County Council, would eliminate overlap between shifts, saving enough money to pay for the 20-year retirement for police, allow elimination of 15 positions and add two new round-the-clock patrol beats.

Police union President John Paparazzo said that if the council rejects 20-year retirement, Robey will lose the schedule change he favors.

"I'm not going back to the table," Paparazzo said.

Also last night, Councilman Charles C. Feaga, a West Friendship Republican, suggested excluding cats in the western county and all barn cats from a proposed licensing law.

Animal Advocates of Howard County wants to require that cats be licensed, as dogs already are.

Pub Date: 3/25/97

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