North Kingstown – As early as April 1, Elizabeth Dolan, North Kingstown Town Council President said the Town would continue its course of litigation with its firefighters union, IAFF Local 1651 NKFFA in the state’s Supreme Court. Dolan reiterated the Town’s intention at a Town Council meeting on Monday evening.
In an email response concerning the Town’s mailing of correspondence and settlement offer dated March 27, 2014 directly to its firefighters – International Association of Firefighters Local 1651, North Kingstown Firefighters Association – Dolan indicated that the union leadership had failed to respond to a Town settlement offer.
“While Ray Furtado replied with a counteroffer, it was in response to a prior draft and, more importantly, without any indication that the membership has/had met and discussed our proposal as proposed,” said Dolan. “Unfortunately, the Monday Noon deadline has passed, so our good faith effort to again reach a settlement has met with non response. We will await the Supreme Court decision this fall.”
Dolan’s written intention to carry the acrimonious and embroiled battle to the Supreme Court comes on the heels of several Union favorable decisions at the Superior Court and State Labor Relations Board (SLRB) levels.
Superior Court Judge Brian Stern and the SLRB ordered the Town to return its firefighters and departmental structure to that which existed at the end of the 2010-2011 contract year. Final judgement was entered by Stern as recently as January 6, 2014. All orders are presently stayed due to the Town’s pending Supreme Court appeals.
Union disagrees with Town’s assertions
Coupled with its decision to proceed with litigation, was an embittered assertion that that the Town was forced to proceed to work outside the boundaries of the Union and its executive board in order to have its offer heard and that the Union further failed to respond to the Town’s settlement offer.
The March 27 letter averred that it was the Town’s understanding that the Union ratified the offer and then subsequently asked the membership to ratify the offer.
“Enclosed is the settlement proposal that we were told your union body also voted to ratify last week.”
In the next paragraph,
“We ask that you vote to ratify it.”
Dolan further indicated that the Town hadn’t received a response from the Union, and then that the Union had responded, but it wasn’t to the correct settlement offer.
According to Union President, Raymond Furtado in a phone interview on April 1, a majority of the Local 1651 membership met on March 18 to discuss settlement talks between the Union and Town. Furtado said there was no ratification and that there were outstanding issues to be negotiated.
When asked for a response to Dolan’s commentary and intention to proceed in the state’s highest court, Furtado said he was without a firm foundation to speak as to the Town Council’s intent. Having received no formal indication from the Town or legal counsel, Furtado gave the following statement:
“Once again, I am surprised by the bizarre and unorthodox methods that the Town seems to want to employ as opposed to sitting down and coming to a reasonable solution for everyone” said Furtado.
The crux of the current stalemate stems from the March 27 letter sent to the union membership along with its 4-page settlement offer dated March 25, 2014.
The letter indicated that the union had presented the Town with a tentative agreement to “end all litigation and lock in a new 3-year contract going forward.” It was further said that the agreement was reluctantly and unanimously ratified by the council.
The letter to the membership indicated that the settlement offer was mailed due to a rumor. In that letter, signed by Elizabeth Dolan, with all five council members listed, the Town wrote:
“Enclosed is the settlement proposal that we were told your union body also voted to ratify last week. Because subsequent rumors have raised concerns that, in fact, you may not have been presented this document, we want to be sure you have it.”
On March 31, the Town scheduled an Executive Session for April 3 to discuss fire litigation. When asked for comment following the Executive Session, Dolan again indicated that the Town would await a Supreme Court outcome in the fall.
Furtado opted to wait for the Town’s public announcement before answering settlement specific questions. He indicated that the Union had responded to correspondence from the Town and opted to wait for the Town’s formal announcement.
“I recently saw that the council intends to discuss the terms of a settlement offer at their April 7th meeting. I am quite interested to see how they will decide to describe their latest actions. I’m sure it will be nothing less than surprising.”
Two Presidents face off
Monday’s scheduled council meeting had the Town initially entering executive session to discuss Fire Litigation. The agenda item, “Disclosure of a vote taken in the March 24, 2014 Executive Session approving a settlement offer between the Town of North Kingstown and IAFF, Local 1651 was addressed in open session by Dolan.
“On the 24th we unanimously put in writing a proposal. It was transmitted to the Executive Board of the IAFF. The executive board declined to take it to their membership. We directly mailed it to the membership. The actual proposal had a deadline in it of March 31 at noon,” Dolan said. “That time came and went and there was no formal response to that from the membership or the board, so at this point we are just moving forward. The status quo remains and unfortunately we don’t see a settlement in the near future of this and the litigation is still pending and will move forward before the Supreme Court.”
Furtado spoke during the public comment period.
“I don’t even know where to start,” Furtado said. “Based on the earlier commentary on the agenda item referring to the proposal that was made and ratified by the council, the way that this was laid out earlier in the agenda is a stark contrast to the actual reality of what has happened. What was represented tonight to the public and on the record is that there was no response given to the Town Council as far as the approval that was evidently ratified at an executive session a couple of weeks ago.”
“That’s clearly not a fact,” he said. “There’s a few different areas that I have to address. [I’m] going to read a letter that I emailed out to this council along with council attorney. It’s addressed to Dan Kinder. This is back on March 31, 2014 and its from myself to Dan Kinder, but I cc’d the North Kingstown Town Council, along with our legal representatives, Town Manager Michael Embury.
Union President reads response letter into the record
The letter, read into the record in its entirety, read:
Sent Via E-Mail
March 31, 2014
Daniel K. Kinder
30 Kennedy Plaza, Suite 402
Providence, RI 02903-2319
Re: Town of North Kingstown & IAFF Local 1651
“We have received your correspondence dated March 25, 2104 regarding the settlement proposal between the Town of North Kingstown and the North Kingstown Firefighters. As you are aware, there is a discrepancy between the terms that our Executive Board presented to our membership and the terms that you have presented to the Town Council. To be clear, the Union has not declined to go forward with a final ratification vote, however the terms enclosed in your email do not reflect the terms that have been preliminarily approved by our members.
It is our desire to work through the few inconsistencies that currently exist and finalize the terms of a potential settlement. We have reviewed your enclosed document, and corrected the areas in question to reflect our understanding of the terms as ratified by the Council, which were subsequently presented to our members. We would request that you present this document to the Town Council for their consideration and recommend ratification.
Upon confirmation of ratification by the Council, we intend to move forward with our ratification process in the most expeditious manner possible, as allowable under our Constitution. We will then convey that result to the Town, and if appropriate arrange a mutually agreeable time for the signing of the agreement.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns that may arise.”
President, North Kingstown Firefighters IAFF L-1651
CC: Joseph Andriole, Michael Embury, Marc Gursky, Elizabeth Wiens, North Kingstown Town Council
After Furtado’s reading, Dolan stated that she had read the letter and that she considered it non-responsive. She went on to say that the marked up document wasn’t the document that was sent and that was approved by the council on March 24. She indicated that the document received was a prior draft or changed draft, wasn’t the document that the council thought was going to be presented to the union membership, and therefore wasn’t a response.
Dolan was also adamant that the Town had set a deadline for March 31 at noon that had not been met. That deadline if accepted by the Union as such, gave the Union just hours to vote. Mailed to the membership on Thursday, the Union would have had to organize and convene over the weekend and respond within just 4 business hours to the proposal.
Dolan spoke as to purported events that happened at the union membership meeting, although didn’t indicate on the record where she received that information.
Furtado stated for the record that Dolan had just acknowledged her receipt of the letter. In a back and forth resembling a courtroom interrogation, Dolan questioned Furtado about what had happened behind closed doors in his Union membership meeting.
“Is this public comment,” Furtado asked. “Is this public comment or is this going to be an interactive exchange?”
“This is my meeting,” Dolan replied. “This is our meeting. I am telling you facts. [There is nothing pending. I am telling you there is nothing pending.”]
In an exchange that got increasingly heated, Furtado told Dolan, “The people who work for your fire department are hard-working people.”
The entire council meeting can be viewed by clicking here.
03/18/2014 Special Meeting of IAFF Local 1651 NKFFA to discuss settlement offer
03/24/2014 Executive Session of the North Kingstown Town Council
03/25/2014 Town Council Offer Titled: NK FF Ltr Andriole Enc Final Settlement Proposal 3-25-14.pdf
03/31/2014 Town Council Agenda – Executive Session Meeting of 4/03/2014 (filed at 3:15 p.m.)
03/31/2014 Deadline set by Town Council for response to settlement offer dated 03/25/2014 and mailed 03/27/2014
03/31/2014 Union response to Town Council Offer
04/03/2014 Town Council Executive Session re: Fire Litigation
04/04/2014 North Kingstown Town Council Agenda (filed at 9:42 a.m.)