Havre Daily News
The Havre City Council has decided to accept a request for a mediator to settle a grievance between public works managment and a city service worker. The request was originally denied.
Public works union president Oscar DeLaRosa said Tuesday that Havre Mayor Bob Rice decided to go along with mediation after he assured Rice that the grievance would not be taken to arbitration. He had said during Monday's City Council meeting that he would file for arbitration if the city was not willing to go with mediation.
DeLaRosa still wants an apology because deputy director of public works Gary Schaub called the Havre Police Department for "advice" right after suspending him.
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees representative Pete Parsons said he is satisfied with the decision to go to mediation.
"This is a good option, because it gives an impartial third party a look at the grievance, at no cost."
Arbitration could have cost between $8,000 and $12,000.
"One of the stipulations that Bob put in there is that ... I wouldn't take it to arbitration," DeLaRosa said. "I agreed to that."
Rice could not be reached for comment.
Parsons said he expects the issue to be resolved within the next two months.
The grievance stems from a June incident, in which DeLaRosa was suspended for three days without pay for failing to seek out his supervisor for work orders the previous morning. After he didn't receive any orders, he worked a day on one of the city's trucks. The punishment was handed down by Schaub the following day, on June 8, when Schaub also called Havre Police Chief Mike Barthel.
DeLaRosa's complaint was heard by the Havre City Council Grievance Committee on July He asked that the committee grant him his pay for the three days, remove the incident from his record and order Schaub to write an apology.
The committee, made up of three Havre City Council members, decided to give DeLaRosa his pay and clear his record, but decided not to issue an apology. Committee members said both DeLaRosa and city management shared some of the blame for the incident.
After the decision was made, an American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees representative told committee members that the apology was the most important of the three requests because DeLaRosa felt slighted when Schaub called the Havre Police Department after suspending DeLaRosa.
Committee members were upset that the call to the police had not been brought up to the committee earlier and stuck by their decision.
Rice said during Monday's meeting that Schaub had called Barthel "for advice." Police never responded to the city shop, and DeLaRosa left the property unescorted.
DeLaRosa said he spoke with City Council president and Grievance Committee chair Rick Pierson, who suggested taking the matter to mediation. When DeLaRosa sent Pierson a letter asking for mediation, the request was denied.
At Monday's City Council meeting, DeLaRosa's wife, Britnee, chastized Rice and council members for denying the request for mediation.
"I want it justified why the city is paying money and not going to mediation," Britnee DeLaRosa said. "How can the city afford to pay for this and not other things? Can somebody justify for me ... spending taxpayer dollars?"
Rice made it clear that he was not involved in the decision.
"I stayed out of this one," he said.
Pierson said that the decision to reject mediation had not been his.
"I thought there was pertinent information we should look at," Pierson said Tuesday. "But, again, we are a committee. The majority consensus of the committee was not to go to mediation."
Council member Terry Schend, who also sits on the Grievance Committee, said Tuesday that he was initially against mediation. It is not binding, he said, and the union could take the matter to arbitration anyway if a mediator handed down a decision it didn't like. He also said he was against mediation "based on new information we had received," but declined to comment on what that information is.
Schend said mediation is now acceptable, because DeLaRosa has agreed not to take the matter to arbitration.
"That's acceptable to me," Schend said. "It will be interesting to see how all the mediation comes out. It will be interesting to see how the mediator deals with all of the conflicting stories. Hopefully, that will be the end of that one."
Council member Tom Farnham, who also sits on the committee, could not be reached for comment.
At Monday's meeting, Rice said the one point of contention - an apology from Schaub - might not get resolved.
"He wouldn't sign (the letter of apology)," Rice said.
Schaub could not be reached for comment.
DeLaRosa said he was satisfied that the matter will go to mediation. The union was willing to spend money on arbitration, though, he added. He is happy taxpayer money will not be spent to resolve the issue.
"We had the the money to spend," he said. "They were willing to spend taxpayer's money. We were willing to do whatever it took not to spend taxpayer money."