The Lodi Police Officers Association has agreed to benefit and salary concessions, but the claim they filed last month threatens to derail the negotiations.
City Attorney Steve Schwabauer said he will recommend that the Lodi City Council reject the agreement until a claim the union filed for more than a $1 million in past wages and benefits is settled. Filing a claim is the first step toward a lawsuit.
"We are trying to close our budget and there's an open budgetary issue, obviously," Schwabauer said.
The city does not want to accept a concession agreement that doesn't address potential litigation costs in case the union did move forward with the suit, Schwabauer said.
The Lodi City Council will consider the agreement and hear a report on the negotiations at their meeting Wednesday.
The union filed a claim with the city in mid-May that said concessions agreements during the past two years are invalid because the lead negotiators for the union and city had a business together.
The bargaining group alleges that Human Resources Director Dean Gualco and Lodi Police Sgt. Sierra Brucia started Brucia-Gualco Consulting Company to work as labor consultants.
Union representatives say the relationship voids the five different concession agreements the unions signed starting from February 2009 to June 2010.
All of the city's unions have reached concession agreements, with the exception of the officers' association. If the city and the police union do not reach an agreement, the alternative is laying off four officers in the next fiscal year, which starts July 1.
The city and the bargaining group have been in negotiations for weeks. Schwabauer said the city has not been able to discuss the claim during the concession talks because the union's attorney has not attended any of the previous meetings.
During negotiations, Lodi Police Officers Association President Paul Blandford said the union did not have an attorney there, because they were not asked to have one present.
The city and union met again on Friday, and Blandford said their attorney was present.
"I'm optimistic that something may come about. I'm optimistic that an agreement may be reached," Blandford said.
The union agreed to four concessions, including paying 3 percent of the employee pension costs. Previously, the city paid all of the employee and employer share of pension costs.
"The police association agreed to pay 3 percent of their PERS contribution and get rid of furloughs. It gets the city the number they need to achieve their budget goals," Blandford said.
He said furloughs were a temporary fix and did not address the actual program.
The group also waived all of 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 set at $90,000.
The city will also receive savings from having police officers on higher-cost health care plans switch to one geared toward officers that is lower-cost. The union will also encourage up to 25 other non-sworn employees in the department to join the police health care plan as associate members.
The city is planning an independent investigation of the union's claim that Gualco and Brucia had a business together.
The city has hired consultant Renne Sloan Holtzman Sakai to investigate the claim that the two employees had an outside business.
The contract is hourly because the investigator cannot estimate how many people will be interviewed, but Schwabauer said he does not expect the costs to exceed $10,000.