Reporting Ted Scouten
South Florida Crime
HOLLYWOOD (CBSMiami) – An effort by Hollywood police officers to claw back lost raises and back pay made no headway Wednesday in a special meeting between city commissioners and union representatives, as the city said it simply didn’t have the money to give it’s first responders what they want.
Officers packed the commission chambers Wednesday morning for a hearing with commissioners on an unfair labor practice complaint linked to cuts in pay and benefits the city imposed on police officers as it struggled to deal with a massive budget deficit.
As they sat in front of the city commission, the officers knew there was very little chance that they would get the money, but they wanted to make a point.
“We wanted them to look at the officers, the people who are losing their houses to foreclosure, short sales, the people that they have totally killed and look them in the face and tell them we’re going to continue to screw you,” said Jeff Morano of the police union.
The city was able to declare “Financial Urgency” and eliminate the need to negotiate, The city imposed the cuts, with support from city voters, after the union and the city manager couldn’t reach an agreement to make cuts with union cooperation.
Union attorney Michael Braverman was blunt. “The constitutional rights to bargain that my people have mean nothing,” he told commissioners. “You’ve unilaterally made these changes.”
The police and their union claim they should never have been forced to bear the brunt of the city’s financial trouble, which they claim were not of their making. They say it’s especially unfair to force them to give back since they put their lives on the line to protect the people of Hollywood.
“2011 was a banner year for police,” said Morano. “One hundred and 63 were killed in he line of duty in 2011. That’s a police officer every 53 hours, just so you know. 14 were killed in the state of Florida.”
None of the commissioners disputed the grim reality be serving as a police officer, but neither did they back down from the reason they forced police officers to take cuts. The Hollywood administration said Wednesday, as it did when it imposed the cuts, that it is out of money and out of places to get it.
“If you think for any reason that we would be making these difficult decision because you think we’re having fun or we want to hurt you, you are wrong,” said commissioner Linda Sherman.
“I think every member of the commission wants to do something. I am definitely open to try to negotiate a resolution; it just can’t be done at this moment,” said Mayor Peter Bober.
Police officers and their union representatives said they do’t by the city’s argument that its hands are tied and there’s money.
“You have produced a budget that I will tell you looks more like some type of criminal fraud or money laundering than a real city budget,” Braverman said.
City commissioners are expected to make a decision on the union request Wednesday, but union members admitted they are not optimistic.