The Police Officers Association of Lodi has filed a claim against the city, saying concessions officers agreed to during the past two years are invalid because the lead negotiators for the union and city had a business together.
The union filed a claim for an amount to exceed $1 million, saying the relationship voids the five different concession agreements the unions signed starting from February 2009 to June 2010.
The union alleges Human Resources Director Dean Gualco and Lodi Police Sgt. Sierra Brucia, who was promoted last month, started Brucia-Gualco Consulting Company to work as labor consultants.
The union states in the claim that the two started the business in 2008 while they were negotiating contracts and concessions for the city.
“Neither party disclosed their private, business relationship,” the claim states.
Gualco started working for the city in 2007 and has negotiated contracts and concession agreements with all of the city’s unions. Brucia is no longer negotiating contracts for the association because he is now mid-management. Gualco and Brucia did not respond to calls for comment.
Current union president Paul Blandford said the union’s lawyer suggested they file the claim. He is not sure if the officers will pursue a lawsuit.
“All I can say is that as the investigation unravels, if things weren’t done right, then they were not done right. I’ll just let the chips fall where they may,” Blandford said.
The claim states that the business relationship results in “concealed breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, fraud,” and “breach of fiduciary duty.”
City officials are pursuing an independent investigation of the allegations, city spokesman Jeff Hood said. The city plans to hire a company that specializes in employee investigations.
Officials said they were surprised to find out about the claim when it was filed last Wednesday.
“I have not had time to fully consider the union’s factual and legal contentions,” City Manager Rad Bartlam stated in a prepared statement.
Bartlam also pointed to the original 2008 contract that was also signed by Brucia and Gualco.
“What does that say of the union’s 2008 contract signed by the same two people and the 20 percent pay raise our officers received that year? If I were in the police officers union, I might start worrying about having to pay that money back,” Bartlam said.
The union found out about the business when a member was searching the Internet for Gualco’s name earlier this month. There is a website with the business name listed but when clicking on the link, it does not go to the site.
Gualco is required to file a statement of economic interests, and the business is not listed on the form. There also is no record of the business with the Secretary of State.
According to the Lodi’s rules of personnel administration, employees are allowed to have outside employment but it cannot interfere with their city job.
“A City employee shall not engage in any employment, activity or enterprise for compensation which is inconsistent, incompatible, in conflict with, or adverse to his/her duties as a City employee or with the duties, functions or responsibilities of such a person’s Department Director or the department in which employed,” the rules state.