Amityville to hire labor lawyer to help with PBA talks

The Amityville Village Hall on Ireland Place in The Amityville Village Hall on Ireland Place in Amityville Village on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014. Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

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Amityville Village trustees last week approved spending up to $12,500 to retain a labor lawyer for upcoming contract discussions with the police union.

The resolution passed with Mayor James Wandell, Deputy Mayor Jessica Bernius and trustee Nick LaLota supporting, and trustees Dennis Siry and Kevin Smith opposing. The vote is the latest public sign of a monthslong split on the board over issues of pay related to the Police Benevolent Association.

Amityville's payroll shows that 21 officers out of 24 in the village department were paid more than any other village employees last year. Police spending accounts for $4.7 million of the $14.9 million total village budget.

LaLota, the village's budget officer, has said that if the PBA does not agree to open the contract to allow for salary concessions or other cost-saving measures, the village could be pushed into bankruptcy or be forced to submit to control board oversight.

Siry said in May that the village could benefit if the PBA agrees to amend the contract, which would otherwise run through 2018.

However, in an interview, he called a pay freeze proposal for top-earning officers supported by Wandell, Bernius and LaLota "preposterous," and criticized its tone as needlessly antagonistic.

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Smith voted no on the resolution June 9 to hire outside counsel because he said the board should have shopped for a better price. Siry said there had been too little discussion.

"I don't feel comfortable voting on it until I hear more about it," he said.

"It's actually kind of simple," said Wandell. "The PBA wants to be represented by counsel; we want to be represented by counsel. It's not complex."

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LaLota had the last word: "To hem and haw, to say that I must have weeks to decide whether this spending is appropriate or not, when we're talking about a $30 million contract, to me is disingenuous," he said.

A June 5 statement on the PBA's Facebook page states that no "parameters" have been set for talks. "This lack of a meaningful conversation between government officials and the PBA is of serious concern to both our leaders and membership," it concludes.

Talks are slated for mid-July.

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