By Jerome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
The state official appointed to investigate an unfair labor practice complaint filed by Havre police officers against the city city against Havre police officers will soon begin interviewing both sides.
Mike Furlong, a management analyst in the Employment Relations Division of the Department of Labor, said Tuesday he will probably begin contacting both sides this week or next week. The interviews will probably be carried out by telephone, he said.
If Furlong finds the claim has no merit, he said, he will dismiss the case. If he finds there is merit to the case or if the sides provide conflicting information, it will be sent to the Hearings Bureau of the state Department of Labor for a hearing, he said.
Furlong said he does not know when the report will be ready.
The Montana Public Employees Association, the union representing 17 Havre police officers, filed the unfair labor practice claim in December. It alleged that in October the city offered to pay half of the officers' 45 percent health insurance premium increase and then reneged on the verbal commitment. The city denies making such a commitment.
Havre police officers have been paying the entire health insurance increase since late August. They claim that is a violation of their contract and are taking the matter to binding arbitration.