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Union: Labor complaint aimed at city, not chief

SCRANTON – The filing of an unfair labor practice complaint against the city of Scranton on April 14 represents a list of complaints that have been ignored by administrative officials, including Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty, Fraternal Order of Police President Bob Martin said.

The complaint originates in the Dec. 27, 2002, approved order that excluded the superintendent of the department from the collective bargaining unit in a petition for unit clarification from the city; and Scranton Police Chief Dan Duffy’s off-duty arrest of a man in possession of marijuana on March 20.

“The law is that he (Duffy) is not part of the bargaining unit,” Martin said. “He should be able to go out and make arrests… but because of the fact that he left the bargaining unit at the mayor’s pushing, he can’t do bargaining unit work.”

Efforts to reach Doherty for comment were unsuccessful.

Members of the FOP, Martin said, support the chief, but he crossed a legal line last month.

“On March 20, he received some complaints and took it upon himself to get in his car. He went over to West Side and came across this guy wanted for a warrant, so he arrested him,” he countered. “It doesn’t take a whole lot of rocket science to figure it out. He was on patrol. He was doing bargaining unit work. That’s what the difference is.

“I thought that he understood the difference.”

Martin said he had similar conversations with Duffy following two driving under the influence arrests he made on the evening before Thanksgiving. A similar labor complaint was prepared but never filed due to a perceived miscommunication with the lodge’s attorney, according to Martin.

A nearly identical complaint against then-Chief David Elliot was filed in 2003, but Martin said no action was taken.

During public comments made Tuesday before City Council, Martin said that “Chief Duffy just happens to be a part of the collateral damage in all of this,” referring to the union using labor complaints as a “tool to get the mayor to sit down and negotiate” terms of their contracts.

“We knew that the chief should be out doing this kind of work. Now they’re mad at us because we’re making them stick to the rules,” Martin said in an interview Thursday.

Martin also takes issue with a March 25 order that supports the union’s allegation that the city improperly unilaterally transferred “the work of processing arrested persons to Lackawanna County employes (sic).”

Any decision in the union’s favor in a Supreme Court of Pennsylvania case involving the ability of a financially distressed municipality like Scranton to alter arbitration awards issued to labor unions could destroy the city’s finances, Martin said.

“If we were to take a total win at the Supreme Court, the financial consequences to the city of Scranton would be devastating. I don’t think we’re going to take a clean win, but we don’t have to take a clean win to cripple this city,” he said.

Still, he contends, “The mayor doesn’t recognize the labor board or labor law.”

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