Anne Arundel unions sue county over binding arbitration

Union leaders say the bill violates the county charter

April 16, 2011|By Jessica Anderson, The Baltimore Sun

Anne Arundel County's public safety unions filed a lawsuit against the county Friday, in response to a law altering binding arbitration in collective-bargaining disputes.

The legislation was drafted by County Executive John R. Leopold and approved by the County Council last month. It gives the council the final say in labor disputes.

The council voted unanimously to approve the bill, but several members said they voted for the bill only with the addition of two key amendments, which Leopold vetoed and signed the bill into law as originally written. The council failed to override his veto.

On Friday, the county's public safety unions filed a lawsuit against the county to overturn the law, which was first reported by The (Annapolis) Capital newspaper on Saturday.

"We knew we were going to do it all along," O'Brien Atkinson, president of county police union, said Saturday. "The bill written by the county executive is in violation of our county charter."

County Attorney Jonathan Hodgson said the county anticipated the suit. While the unions allege that the law violates the county charter and should be void, Hodgson said that the county disagrees and that "we're prepared to defend against the suit."

Before the change, a neutral third party issued opinions when disputes arose, and both the administration and the council were bound by those rulings.

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