Orange Council ratifies new contract with police union

ORANGE, NJ — The Orange City Council voted to approve Resolution No. 332-2016, authorizing ratification of the collective bargaining agreement between the city of Orange Township and the Orange Police Department Police Benevolent Association Local 89, at their Tuesday, Oct. 18 meeting, effectively settling a contract dispute that had dragged on for seven years.

The new resolution and memorandum of agreement also come after a state-appointed arbitrator was forced to step in to settle the contract dispute between the city and the union. Acting finance director Adrian Mapp had informed the governing body at a council meeting on Tuesday, March 1, that the administration had received a settlement proposal from the state arbitrator, but the Warren administration had appealed it.

According to sources within the Orange Police Department, sometime after the Warren administration filed that appeal, PBA Local 89 members signed a memorandum of understanding with the administration, represented by Chief of Staff Tyshammie Cooper and Chris Hartwyk, the acting business administrator. That memorandum was the first step in settling the contract negotiations and led directly to the memorandum of agreement between both parties.

During the public participation portion of the council’s meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 18, local businessman Jeff Feld asked why the state arbitrator’s settlement proposal had not been made available to the public, since it is a public record. When he asked why it had not been posted on the city’s official website, City Council President Donna K. Williams referred his inquiry to acting city attorney Eric Pennington, who said it hadn’t been made public because the deal between the Warren administration and PBA Local 89 had not yet been settled.

Pennington made those remarks prior to the council’s vote to approve Resolution No. 332-2016. The memorandum of agreement between the city and PBA Local 89 comes months after the Orange Police Department Superior Officers Association signed its own new contract deal with the Warren administration.

The PBA Local 89 memorandum of agreement also comes after officer Renny Wilson and about a dozen other Orange police officers showed up at City Council’s meeting on Tuesday, March 1, to inform the governing body members of the status of their contract negotiation talks with the Warren administration at that time.

“I’m on the executive board and we’ve been without a contract for seven years,” said Wilson on Tuesday, March 1, at the council meeting. “For several years, we have won litigation and we have yet to receive these entitlements. Monies have been allocated for the entitlements; however, we never received them. We’re not greedy public employees. The city is getting bigger, and the police department and we need to know what’s going on.”

East Ward Councilman Kerry Coley, a former member of the Orange Police Department who retired from the force in 2013 shortly before his successful run for public office, and West Ward Councilman Harold J. Johnson said they made sure the governing body allocated enough money to settle the contract dispute between the Mayor Dwayne Warren’s administration and PBA Local 89 when they were both sworn into office in 2014.

Coley questioned the timing of the Warren administration’s decision to finally settle the seven-year-old contract dispute with PBA Local 89, adding it was a shame the mayor hadn’t moved to resolve the longstanding issue until after shootings and homicides in Orange began to spiral out of control, with multiple incidents occurring within days and weeks of one another.

Coley also wondered if Warren appointing his brother, Todd Warren, to serve as acting police director had anything to do with the timing of his administration’s decision to finally settle the contract dispute with PBA Local 89. Earlier this year, the council voted not to approve Todd Warren as the city’s new full-time police director after his 90-day trial period as acting director ended.

“We appropriated $500,000 in August 2014 to settle these contracts and it wasn’t done,” said Coley on Monday. Oct. 3, and again on Tuesday, Oct. 18. “The money was spent other places, except for settling these contracts. What happened to that money? The only thing I can see why the mayor would jump and settle the contract now is to make it look like things are going good, because his brother is now the acting police director,” said Coley on Monday, Oct. 3. “This could have been settled in 2012. That’s why you didn’t hire any new cops until six months ago. You look at all these other cities and hiring cops and public safety is a priority.”

Coley said he learned about the memorandum of understanding between the Warren administration and PBA Local 89 on Monday, Oct. 3. At that point, the memorandum of agreement between those parties had not been presented to the council, but Coley said it was a “waste,” adding that, “all of this could have been worked out in 2012, when the mayor first came aboard.”

“It’s a waste of money from both sides that spent tens of thousands of dollars on lawyers’ fees,” said Coley. “The only people that have made any money out of this long, drawn-out process are the lawyers. The money was set aside to settle the contracts two years ago. Lawyers charge money. All this money that was wasted on both sides could have been spent on better things.”