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Ashwaubenon board denies hearing public safety grievances

By Kevin Boneske
Staff Writer

ASHWAUBENON – Grievances filed by the Ashwaubenon Public Safety Officers’ Association (APSOA) remain pending an arbitration hearing before the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC) after the village board decided in closed session June 23 not to consider any of them further, said Clerk-Treasurer Patrick Moynihan.

The APSOA’s attorney, Aaron Halstead of the Hawks Quindel law firm, said the union sought to resolve a grievance pending for arbitration.

“There was no agreement reached, but discussions continue,” he said.

APSOA President Eric Paulowski, Secretary Melanie Lovato and Treasurer Ben Walker were on the hand for the board’s meeting leading up to the closed session.

Pending grievances the board denied over the past year involve past and present public safety officers.

For example, Shawn Wright disputed how much he should have received for accrued but unused paid time off (PTO) benefits upon his retirement Aug. 2, 2019.

The grievance filed by the APSOA claims the village miscalculated the hourly rates based on which it made the payout.

The union has sought to have the village recalculate Wright’s final PTO payout “in accordance with the parties’ collective bargaining agreement(s) and consistent with the manner in which the village has historically paid out such benefits to retiring PSOs.”

According to records related to the grievance, the payout to Wright was based upon his actual hourly rate of pay, which was based upon his salary divided by the number of hours required for his respective shift (i.e. 2,920 annual hours for a 24-hour shift) and not the overtime rate.

The grievance was denied by the village board, which found it “does not explain with specificity how the village allegedly miscalculated the hourly rates for the PTO retiree payout to PSO Wright and how this violates the parties’ collective bargaining agreement.”

“Additionally, the grievance does not explain with detail how the village has historically paid out such PTO benefits to retiring PSOs,” stated a letter from Village President Mary Kardoskee to Halstead. “As a result, the village is unable to properly or adequately respond in specific detail to the grievance’s general allegations.”

The next step in the grievance procedure of the union’s contract calls for the WERC to appoint an arbitrator from its staff to hear the matter and “make an ultimate and binding decision regarding the interpretation or application of a specific provision of the agreement.”

A hearing on the grievance was scheduled for April 9, but ended up being postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Village Attorney Tony Wachewicz.

Unused sick pay

Another grievance the board denied relates to a dispute over the village issuing checks Jan. 10 to public safety officers eligible for a payout of unused sick time during 2019.

The grievance alleges the village improperly and incorrectly calculated the amounts owed to the officers for the sick time payouts when the payments were listed as vacation on the officers’ paychecks.

The APSOA sought to have the village recalculate the amounts owed to the officers and issue further checks for the balance of sick time owed to them.

Paulowski grievances

According to copies of grievances The Press Times obtained from the village in an open records request, the board denied three grievances filed last November and December on behalf of Paulowski.

According to a Nov. 5 grievance, Paulowski was notified by email from Lt. Wade Graul of the training division within the Ashwaubenon Public Safety Department about not being selected as a defense and arrest tactics (DAAT) instructor, for which he had interviewed, without being provided an explanation as to why he wasn’t chosen.

The grievance states then acting public safety director Randy Tews was provided a ranking list of candidates for the DAAT instructor position, for which there were three applicants and two would be selected to fill the vacant positions within the department.

The ranking list provided to Tews had Paulowski ranked within the top two candidates, according to the grievance.

The APSOA requested management to abide by the ranking order submitted to it from the selection committee members.

“The entire purpose of constructing an instructor (memorandum of understanding) MOU over the last year and a half with management was to limit management’s ability to handpick their candidates,” the grievance states. “We all have agreed in many meetings that the best qualified candidate should be selected for the position. Although the MOU gives the final approval at the sole discretion of the director, at no time does it give such authority for the director of training to handpick their candidates irrespective of the ranking order without just cause.”

A grievance dated Nov. 18 relates to when the association met with acting chief Tom Rolling regarding several issues, including when Paulowski was served three days earlier with a written warning notice regarding payroll activities.

The grievance states Paulowski was never formally spoken to regarding payroll issues, and at no time was he ever spoken to in a fashion of a warning prior to a direct written warning notice being served.

The union, which requested a definition of what a written notice means in a personnel file, recommended correcting the grievance by having the written warning notice served Nov. 15 to Paulowski be issued as written counseling and not a written warning notice, because no previous formal warnings or counseling had been provided to him.

A related grievance dated Dec. 9 states another officer was issued a written counseling notice when that officer “faced very similar circumstances” to Paulowski’s written warning notice Nov. 15.

No hearings set

WERC Arbitrator Raleigh Jones said there currently are no arbitration hearings scheduled involving the village and the APSOA on any grievances.

Previous ruling

An arbitration hearing was held Jan. 22 involving the grievance the APSOA filed on behalf of officer Jamie Zynda, who had a letter of direction to review the village’s anti-harassment policy and dress code placed in his personnel file following his off-duty participation in a Fraternal Order of Police golf outing Aug. 3, 2018, when he was seen wearing a thong at the Brown County Golf Course.

Jones issued a decision May 7 when he ruled the village did not deviate from, misinterpret or misapply any policy or practice relating to conditions of employment when it issued the non-disciplinary letter to Zynda and placed it in his personnel file.

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