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Nassau PBA rejects contract, delivering blow to Curran

The Nassau County Police Benevolent Association has been

The Nassau County Police Benevolent Association has been working without a contract since 2017. Credit: Danielle Silverman

Members of the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association on Wednesday rejected a new labor agreement that would pay officers $3,000 annually to wear body cameras and provide raises of 25% over the 8 1/2-year-pact, union president James McDermott said.

The vote came nearly three weeks after announcement of a tentative deal, and had the backing of Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and Adam Barsky, who chairs the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, a state control board that has final signoff on any deal. The PBA had been working without a contract since the end of 2017.

The PBA members' vote represented a political blow to Curran.

The Democratic county executive, who is up for reelection in 2021, had been trying to finalize expired labor deals since taking office in 2018.

Curran also is trying to formally launch a body camera program for sworn law enforcement officers. The officers cannot begin to wear cameras without terms of the initiative written into their contracts.

The PBA deal for the first time would have equipped Nassau officers with body camera technology that has become standard police equipment across much of the United States.

McDermott declined to say why the 1,594 Nassau patrol officers represented by the union voted down the proposed labor agreement.

McDermott said he sent a letter to Curran notifying her of the vote. He did not disclose a tally.

"The administration was disappointed to learn of today’s result," said Mike Fricchione, a spokesman for Curran. "The county and the union worked very hard to fashion a solid agreement that both recognized current financial difficulties and delivered meaningful raises to police officers. We will carefully consider our next steps, while recognizing any agreement must conform to the pattern already set."

Fricchione continued: "Meanwhile, our efforts at increasing the responsiveness of our police force to the community will continue unabated. Further, this will not deter our efforts to bring body cameras to policing."

Rejection of the PBA deal came after pressure from Democrats and progressive activists, who have called on county legislators lawmakers to delay passage of police contracts until the county submits a proposal for sweeping police reforms to the state.

The plan must be filed by April 1 as required under a directive from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, known as Executive Order No. 203.

Last week, a state Supreme Court justice issued a temporary restraining order preventing an 8 1/2-year deal with another Nassau police union, the Superior Officers Association Inc., from taking effect.

Civil rights lawyer Frederick Brewington had sued to void the contract, saying the Nassau County Legislature should not have approved the contracts in November on an "emergency" basis.

Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder declined to comment.

"It’s not clear where they would go from here, but one thing that is clear, there is no more money for the contract," Barsky said in an interview.

"It’s unfortunate to them, and it’s unfortunate to the county," said Barsky.

Union leaders and public officials have not publicly disclosed the terms of the contract.

But McDermott said earlier this month in a nearly six-minute video urging PBA members to back the pact that officers would receive $3,000 a year to wear body cameras.

McDermott told his members in the video that all officers would receive $2,500 upon ratification of the contract and another payment of $2,420 on Jan. 1, 2025.

At the close of the contract, pay increases would equal "an average of 25%," McDermott said, although he did not provide specific figures.

"No deal is perfect, but in this deal, the good far outweighs the bad," McDermott said in the video.

Curran and county officials had refused to divulge specifics of the contract while PBA members were reviewing its terms.

The Nassau County Legislature last month approved an 8½-year contract for the Superior Officers Association.

The agreement awarded pay raises totaling 15% and giving officers a $3,000 stipend upon implementation of the county's body camera program, which is expected to begin by next September.

The county agreed to an 8 1/2 year deal with the 300 members of the Detectives Association in December 2019.

Legislative Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) was among those who thought the county should vote on police contracts only after approval of a policing reform plan.

"I think when any member of a union looks at a contract they look at it from a financial standpoint," he said of the rejection of the PBA deal. "It appears that they feel that they can do better, or they want their leadership to do better."

Abrahams continued, "from a finance standpoint, this contract fell in line with the Detectives contract, as well as the Superior Officers contract." Abrahams called rejection of the PBA agreement, "pretty surprising … I’ve never seen it."

He said the PBA contract could have failed for reasons other than the financial terms.

"How comfortable are they wearing body cameras … and the disciplinary process that goes with that because every action could be scrutinized and disciplined," Abrahams said.

Legis. Siela Bynoe (D-Westbury), who had urged the county to delay passage of the PBA agreement, said, "the membership voting it down presents an opportunity for reforms to be integrated into the next agreement that would be presented for consideration."

Bynoe called it, "an opportunity for them to sit down and integrate reforms into the next agreement."

Barsky, the NIFA board chairman, said he believed "misinformation" doomed the proposed PBA contract.

"I don’t think the benefits of the contract for both the county and the members were fully explained," Barsky said.

Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman said, "As we always point out in all of our reports, having a labor contract provides certainty of costs in the year to come, without a contract, the uncertainty continues."

A spokesman for legislative Republicans declined to comment about "ongoing union negotiations."

With Nicole Fuller and Candice Ferrette

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