LYNN, MA – Essex Superior Court Judge Richard E. Welch has ordered that the residency requirement for Lynn Police Officers be a subject of collective bargaining and upheld an earlier court decision that the issue should be decided by the Joint Labor Management Committee Arbitration.
JLM is panel comprised of management and union representatives whose purpose is to mediate conflicts between unions and management.
Boston attorney Susan Horwitz, representing the Lynn Police Association, said the ruling is a cue for the city to move forward.
“Many of us have been raised and have grown up in Lynn, and many will remain even after the resolution of this matter,” she wrote in a prepared statement. “Lynn is a great city and the officers who work for the citizens of Lynn are dedicated to serving the community regardless of where they live.”
City Solicitor Michael Barry said the decision raises concerns and he is not prepared to accept Welch’s ruling.
“We want the learned judges of the Appeals Court to decide that fate,” he said. “And we are confident they will send it back to the city to enforce.”
His confidence, he said, comes from the charter itself, which he said includes a quote from the Charter Commission stating that the charter is “tailor made to fit the city of Lynn.”
He also noted that no other municipal union has gone to such lengths to “challenge the will of the voters.”
Despite the apparent victory for the LPA, Barry said residency is still in effect until it is settled once and for all either through arbitration or through the courts.
Councilor at large Daniel Cahill said he is concerned what other personnel issues might be open to collective bargaining as a result of this ruling. He also expects the issue will end up at the Supreme Judicial Court.
Police Chief Kevin Coppinger didn’t disagree with Horwitz. He said that he has not found the assertion by the Law Department that officers who live in the city where they work are more apt to care about it to be necessarily true.
“We’ve had officers who do live outside the city who were grandfathered in who go above and beyond, and we have officers who live in Lynn who do the same,” he said. “The vast majority give it their all when they come to work.”
He also said that the residency requirement has cost him some good officers like a lieutenant who left to take a job as an officer in another community rather than comply with residency.
“He gave up a lot and we lost a lot,” Coppinger said. “The best candidate should get the job, and his job should be related to his performance and not necessarily where he lives —and that’s true for any job in the city.”
In her statement Horwitz wrote that the issue of residency is a simple one. She pointed out that in 2000, Salem Superior Court Judge Joseph Grasso ruled that “a local residency requirement imposed on police by city charter is subject to the collective bargaining requirements” and now Welch has upheld the order.
She added that the comments from Barry’s office “demonstrate a complete and utter disregard for these responsibilities as well as a height of hypocrisy when they claim that the city’s charter somehow has relevance in the matter.”
Horwitz also wrote that Barry didn’t necessarily disagree with the 2000 opinion and argued that an arbitrator ruled that police officers not residing in the city prior to May 14, 1999 would be exempt from the residency requirements.
“This 1999 date is clearly outside of the mandates of the city charter which specifies, ‘that all police officers appointed after January 7, 1980 will be governed’… by residency requirements,” she wrote.
Barry said fewer than five officers were given the “extremely narrow exception” because they truthfully admitted they had moved out of Lynn prior to 1999.
“Residency remains the law in Lynn,” Barry said.
His concern, he said, is that a panel of non-Lynn arbitrators will overturn an issue that was voted on by 89,000 citizens.
“In the event that a panel of non-Lynners eliminate the residency requirement, I am confident that an Appeals Court after hearing the legal arguments, will affirm the residency requirement,” he said.
Horwitz, however, urged city officials to begin fulfilling the requirement. “It’s lawful obligation,” he said.
From The Daily Item.