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What you need to know for 03/28/2017

Schenectady to appeal police discipline case to state's highest court

Schenectady to appeal police discipline case to state's highest court

City officials have decided to take the police discipline case to the state’s highest court.

City officials have decided to take the police discipline case to the state’s highest court.

Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy said the city would continue to fight the Schenectady Police Benevolent Association’s push to continue hearing discipline cases through an arbitrator.

“We’ll settle this once and for all,” McCarthy said. “We’ve spent so much. We’ll live by whatever the decision is. At this point, I believe we have a strong case, so we want to continue to move forward.”

Rather than paying an arbitrator, the city is looking to give its public safety commissioner the exclusive power to discipline police officers.

The decision to go to the state Court of Appeals comes after the state Appellate Division ruled earlier this month against the city. The case between the city and the police union has been ongoing for several years.

McCarthy said he believes the city has a solid case, pointing to a similar one in New York City in which the state Court of Appeals ruled in favor of its police commissioner disciplining officers.

The city is arguing that the Second Class Cities Law allows the public safety commissioner to discipline police, while the police union says the more recent Taylor Law, which mandates all public employees be the subject of good faith collective bargaining, supersedes the Second Class Cities Law.

The city’s contract with the police union has been expired for two years. The two sides have been unable to negotiate a new contract. McCarthy said he is not able to discuss details of their negotiations.

“The contract is open, so there are possibilities,” McCarthy said. “We’re looking to have this case go up for a final decision.”

Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett said earlier this month that he believes Schenectady should be granted the same ruling by the Court of Appeals as New York City.

Following New York City’s ruling in 2012, which also determined that many municipalities had the right to discipline police, the Schenectady police union turned to the state Public Employment Relations Board to argue that the ruling didn’t apply to Schenectady.

The Appellate Division issued its ruling on Feb. 4 in favor of the state Public Employment Relations Board. The city’s last step is to appeal to the state’s highest court.

Bennett has served as commissioner since 2007 after he retired as superintendent of the state police, having served in that role from 2003 to 2007. As public safety commissioner, he oversees both the police and fire departments.

Bennett is the city’s third commissioner. Charlie Mills served as commissioner from 1990 to 1994 and Daniel Boyle served as commissioner from 2002 until 2003.

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