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Judge rules in favor of county arbitrator

A State Supreme Court judge has ruled that a Suffolk County labor department arbitrator's decision favoring Islip Town over the town workers' union was not influenced by his support of the town supervisor's election campaign.

The union had filed a petition to vacate arbitrator Willard Christy's April 6 finding on a union grievance charging that the town had unfairly distributed overtime among employees in its Public Works Department. He ruled that the grievance was unfounded.

Newsday reported in June that Christy had donated $120 over three years to Phil Nolan and the Islip Democratic committee, and in 2007 collected signatures for Nolan's re-election campaign.

Christy has said that Nolan had "nothing to do with this particular [arbitration] case."

State Supreme Court Justice Patrick Sweeney, in a Feb. 25 decision received by the town and union Tuesday, found that "the limited donations over a three-year period and the single instance of collecting signatures do not rise to the level of an ongoing or substantial relationship" that would have affected Christy's impartiality.

The ruling upheld Christy's arbitration ruling.

Tuesday, Nolan said: "We're very gratified with the judge's decision. We felt that the charge was baseless and we felt very strongly about that and the judge has concurred."

John Burns, Long Island director for Teamsters Local 237, said the union was disappointed. After the Christy ruling, the union and town decided to pay for independent arbitrators rather than using those provided by the county.

Burns said the union prefers the new arrangement, despite the additional cost, because "it takes this question of political attachment out of the picture."

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