Liberty Township’s attorney filed a motion in Delaware County Court of Common Pleas Friday, May 18, seeking to vacate an arbitrator’s clarification of an original award between the township, International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 3754 and United Steelworkers (USW) Local 9110-07.
The township’s filing states the recent clarification should be vacated on the grounds that the arbitrator “exceeded his powers and imperfectly executed them” and “displayed evident partiality or corruption pursuant to the Ohio Revised Code.”
In his conclusion to the court, Brad Bennett, the township’s attorney, states, “Arbitrator engaged in an unknown number of ex parte communications with the Union where he was certainly subject to undue influence, bias, advocacy and persuasive communications from the Union. By the Township being excluded from such conversations and being denied a voice or opportunity for such advocacy, the Arbitrator was improperly influenced by one party.”
Matt Huffman, township administrator, said the union approached the arbitrator after his original ruling for clarification without the township being represented in the meeting.
“Both parties have to be a part of the arbitrator’s clarification,” he said. “The unions requested the clarification. The township didn’t.”
One of the unknown communications involved Cathy Buehrer, the township’s HR specialist.
Buehrer told The Gazette Friday that she had agreed to meet with representatives of the unions to figure out how to come to an agreement.
“We had a draft of a memorandum of understanding that could have worked,” she said.
However, Buehrer said, she was caught off guard when one of the representatives pushed a button on his phone and the arbitrator answered.
“I didn’t know they were going to do that,” she said. “I got the sense that the arbitrator was waiting for the call.”
Nancy Denutte, fiscal officer, said what the unions did, “they didn’t do just once, they did it twice.” She said the arbitrator “didn’t do anything illegal, just unethical.”
Who authorized Bennett to file the paperwork with the court?
“I authorized it along with the administrator,” Denutte said. “There wasn’t a vote, but at some point, we all agreed on it.”
When Huffman was asked who authorized the filing, he said to call the township’s attorney in the matter.
Bennett could not be reached for comment Friday.
Trustees approved an amendment Monday, May 21, to the 2018 appropriations for $25,000 to pay legal fees in the negotiations of the upcoming union labor contracts.
“We need to add $25,000 for legal fees to take care of the union negotiations,” Denutte said.
In a phone interview, Denutte said part of the $25,000 will pay the legal fees of the court case to vacate the arbitrator’s clarification.
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.