Elected officials should seek restitution from firefighters
An open letter to Mayor Joseph Solomon and
I am taking this time once again to reach out to you pertaining to the WFD over payment of unused sick pay issue, that I have been vocal about for quite some time.
I understand that the city has now stopped the accruement of the .41 (25%) segment of the 1.66 days that has been rolled into the members accruement after they have been paid the maximum of 1.25 days (75%). If this action in fact has been taken, it is certainly a step in the right direction. However, once again I will argue the case to be made of restitution of the over payments that have been made since 2012.
I have taken the liberty to engage a contracts attorney who has brought to my attention some interesting facts that I will share with you.
In accordance with Rhode Island law, in a contract between two parties, if the contract contains ambiguous or contradictory language, any benefits that are the result of the language discrepancy is solely the responsibility of the maker of the contract. In a collective bargaining agreement, as in the agreement between the City of Warwick and the Firefighters union, both parties are the makers of the contract which means both parties have a mutual responsibility, if language in the contract, or the premise of the contract is misused, modified, or manipulated. This premise has been upheld in case law several times.
As in the case at hand, it is clear, that the historical premise of the contract section of unused sick time, indicates an annual benefit, that is to be paid annually, not to exceed certain percentages and days paid.
Moving from the annual payment schedule to a monthly payment schedule, allowed for manipulation of the historical premise of the contract language, resulting in over payments, which was certainly by definition, not the intent of the benefit that is defined, and that has historically been defined in the contract.
In view of this fact, the arbitration clause in the contract allows both parties the opportunity to correct areas of the contract that either party may interpret as incorrect. This issue, is such an area, that needs to be corrected. In particular, the city is well within their rights to seek restitution from the deviation of the intent of the contract that resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars being overpaid.
It is the responsibility of the elected officials to see to it that restitution is made to the taxpayer, that the historical language of the contract is followed, and to provide evidence to the taxpayer that the problem has been resolved.
During the arbitration process, the city should not ratify any future contract until such restitution is repaid to the city, and that the taxpayer is made whole. The city should use this issue as leverage during negotiations, and finally produce a contract that is favorable to the taxpayer. In the absence of the officials of this city to demand restitution, they will have breached their fiduciary duty to the city.
I will also state for the record, that the current city solicitor Peter Ruggiero, presided over these contracts, which by all measure are loosely worded and written poorly which have proliferated the issue at hand. This should not be the case moving forward.
I will re-emphasize that this is not an issue that the past practices can be ignored and forgotten, and fixed moving forward. These monies, from 2012 to present, that have been overpaid, must be reimbursed to the taxpayers coffers.