Dispute over contract language brewing between city, police union

By Joleen Ferris

(WKTV) - Although they signed and ratified a new contract in November, there is a battle brewing over a major dispute regarding how certain language in the contract between the City of Utica and its police department -- and general municipal law -- should be interpreted. 

And it's going to come to a head within six weeks.

The city sent the PBA president a letter dated May 5 saying that, as of June 30, the city was going to stop paying health insurance coverage for officers injured in the line of duty and their families.

Currently, they pay for the coverage of those officers. City officials say they're simply adhering to what's outlined in section 207c of general municipal law, which they say states that a municipality only owes officers out on 207c their full salary and the cost of care of the injury, and that union members themselves agreed to and ratified the language when they passed the contract in November. 

In the letter, the mayor also states that the union has been unreceptive to repeated attempts by the city to initiate discussions about possible alternatives.

PBA President John Dellerba says he challenges the mayor to produce any email, voicemail or other written correspondence showing that the union has failed to show up for any meeting or declined any discussion. Dellerba says it was the city that canceled the last scheduled meeting for Jan. 27.   

"This is just another attack on the Utica Police Department by Mayor Palmieri," Dellerba said. "Mayor Palmieri is manipulating the verbiage in 207c municipal law to penalize UPD officers and their families for getting hurt while on duty protecting the citizens of the city of Utica."

Dellerba, added that he doesn't know of any municipality in the state that does what the city is attempting to do in terms of stopping paying for insurance coverage for officers injured in the line of duty.

The assistant police chief in Schenectady says that city does continue paying for coverage for officers out on 207c.  The head of the Oneida County Sheriff's Department union says the county does, as well.  UPD officers currently pay 15 percent to -20percent of their coverage, based on the day they started work.

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