Decision To Appeal Firefighter Union Victory Not UnanimousPosted: Updated:
It was a legal victory for the city of Watertown's firefighters union.
Last week, a state appellate court overturned a previous ruling that said the union could not go to arbitration regarding minimum manning, which is the main sticking point in contract negotiations with the city.
The most recent contract says 15 firefighters must be on duty at all times. The fire union says it's a safety issue, but the city has long believed the taxpayer should have the right to determine staffing, not the union.
Monday night, in executive session, city council decided it would file for permission to appeal this newest decision in the Court of Appeals, the state's highest court.
"It was a lengthy discussion, not an easy decision, but at the end, we thought it was the right thing to do," said Mayor Joe Butler. "We felt like we had to see this to the end to get finality with it."
But that decision was not unanimous. Lisa Ruggiero campaigned for council in 2017, wanting to solve the dispute with the firefighters. Monday night, she didn't waiver from that position.
She tells us it is her opinion "the odds were not in the favor of the city and felt the ruling should be accepted and move on."
Another council member who campaigned on supporting the fire department is Ryan Henry-Wilkinson. In June 2017, he said the fire department staffing should stay the same. In September of 2017, he said the city should fire its outside council, Terry O'Neil, and in January 2018, he thought the city should reinstate fire captains that were demoted.
"I think that's the right thing to do," he said in January 2018. "I'm gonna be having this conversation with my colleagues about what can we do to maybe avoid dragging out anymore legal battles."
But when asked his opinion on the decision, he said he did not want to comment on the details of an executive session.
That vagueness was repeated by other council member Sarah Compo. Cody Horbacz didn't return our request for comment.
Meanwhile, the president of the firefighters union, Dan Daugherty, says he's not surprised the city is going to appeal.
"Every candidate for the past 2 election cycles has campaigned on public safety. Once they get in there, they change their tune extremely quick," he said. "It's just not surprising to me that a politician in Watertown lied."
The court of appeals does not have to take up the case and Mayor Butler says it's a long-shot it will.
But he says the city doesn't want to bail out at the end after time and money has been spent. He also added it won't cost the city any additional money.