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Police union lawsuit against city proceeds to mediation
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The Turlock Associated Police Officers’ lawsuit alleging the City of Turlock is in breach of contract for back wages is moving towards mediation.

TAPO President Russell Holeman said the union’s case is scheduled for a mediation conference sometime in December.

“Essentially this is an opportunity for both sides to come together and attempt to work out an agreement that both sides can agree with,” Holeman said. “If we can’t do that, then we will continue on with the lawsuit.”

TAPO claims the city fell into breach of contract by continuing to deduct retirement funds from the police union members, while discontinuing a salary increase during a time period when both stipulations had expired.

In 2011, TAPO agreed to pay 9 percent of the employee contribution to CalPERS between July 16, 2011 to July 15, 2012. In November 2011, the city issued a 4.5 percent equity adjustment    because it was discovered the initial calculations were wrong and the city had taken more money from city employees than necessary. The adjustment was to cover a six month period.

As the contract was nearing an end, both TAPO and the city agreed to extend the deals in place through Oct. 31, 2012. By the end of October, TAPO and the city had not reached a new contract agreement and all the stipulations that had sunset clauses expired.

The city ended the 4.5 percent adjustments in November 2012, but continued to collect the 9 percent CalPERS deduction. The deductions amounted to about $45,000.

TAPO filed a grievance with the city in an effort to have the $45,000 returned and it was rejected a few months later by City Manager Roy Wasden.

In his denial, Wasden stated that the 9 percent deduction was “a term and condition which continued until new terms and conditions were agreed upon.” Wasden also wrote that the 4.5 percent equity adjustment was a “provision” that expired Oct. 31, 2012.

A new contract was agreed to by the city and TAPO in December 2012.

The lawsuit was filed by TAPO in July 2013 after the claim went unanswered by the Turlock City Council.

If the mediation process proves fruitless, the case could be forced into arbitration or it could proceed to trial.