The Lodi City Council approved about $500,000 in concessions from the Lodi Police Officers Association on Wednesday night.
The vote came after City Attorney Steve Schwabauer announced the city had settled the claim the union filed last month that asked for more than $1 million in past wages and benefits.
The council also approved an agreement with the Lodi Police Dispatchers Association.
All of the city’s unions have given up some wages or benefits to close a more than $4.5 million shortfall due to rising employee costs. If an agreement wasn’t reached with the Lodi police officers, the alternative was that four officers would have been laid off.
Schwabauer originally recommended the city reject the police officers’ concessions because the claim was not yet settled, which could have led to unknown litigation costs. In mid-May, the union filed the claim alleging the two lead negotiators for the city and union had a business together. A claim is the first step toward a lawsuit.
The bargaining group alleged Human Resources Director Dean Gualco and Lodi Police Sgt. Sierra Brucia started Brucia-Gualco Consulting Company to work as labor consultants.
The group then said that the relationship voids the five different concession agreements the unions signed starting from February 2009 to June 2010.
City staff claimed that if that were the case, then the relationship also negates a 20-percent pay raise and other benefits negotiated in the union’s contracts.
The city and union will drop both of their claims, but Lodi will still continue an investigation into the allegations, Schwabauer said. The city has hired San Francisco-based consultant Renne Sloan Holtzman Sakai to investigate the employees’ relationship.
“Regardless of whether it could cost us money, we need to make sure our employees are behaving appropriately,” Schwabauer said.
The officers agreed to four concessions to cut benefits and wages, but avoided furloughs.
Schwabauer applauded the decision.
“We are very pleased that the union saw the need to observe this through pay cuts instead of furloughs, which inherently affect the level of service we provide,” he said.
The union’s concessions include paying 3 percent of their pension costs.
Every bargaining group in the city has agreed to pay some of their pension costs, ranging from 1 percent to 7 percent. Previously, the city paid all of the employee and employer share of pension costs for all employees.
The group also waived their holiday cash-out, with the exception of $59,100. When an officer works a holiday, they can cash out those hours if they do not have the option of taking a day off at another time. Schwabauer said previously the amount was about $90,000.
Some of these concessions could be off-set if the union is successful in getting their officers and other employees to switch to a lower cost health care plan geared toward police officers. Up to 25 non-sworn employees in the department could join the police health care plan as associate members.
The new agreement will also extend the officers’ contract from October to December to give the city and union time to negotiate a new contract.