Florida Mayor Cannot Veto Council’s Resolution Of Bargaining Impasse

The Dade County Police Benevolent Association (PBA) and the Mayor of Dade County began negotiations in 2011 for successor collective bargaining agreements for the rank-and-file and supervisory police officers employed by the County. By November 2011, the parties reached agreement on all issues except one: Whether the bargaining unit employees would be required to contribute an additional percentage of their base wages towards the cost of health insurance. The parties reached an impasse on this issue because the Mayor wanted an additional 5% contribution and the Union opposed any additional contribution. The parties agreed to submit the impasse directly to the County Commission for “final resolution,” waiving their right to Florida’s special magistrate proceeding (the equivalent of factfinding).

The County Commission conducted a public hearing on the impasse and “ratified and settled” the collective bargaining impasse by determining that “there shall be no additional contribution to the County’s cost of health care.” The Mayor vetoed the Settlement Resolution, citing his authority under the County’s charter to have “veto authority over any legislative or quasi-judicial decision of the Commission.”

The County Commission did not override the Mayor’s veto. Instead, at its next meeting, the Commission voted to reconsider the Resolution adopted on January 5. After adopting the motion to reconsider the Resolution, the Commission voted to resolve the impasse issue by imposing an additional 4% employee contribution towards the cost of health insurance.

The PBA filed an unfair labor practice charge against the County with Florida’s Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC). The charge alleged, among other claims, that the Mayor’s veto of the January 5 Resolution was an unfair labor practice because Florida’s collective bargaining law requires the “legislative body” to resolve the impasse and the Mayor is not a member of the County’s legislative body. The dispute wound up in the Florida Court of Appeals.

The Court sided with the PBA, and held that the Mayor had no right to veto the Commission’s resolution of the health insurance impasse. The Court held that Florida’s bargaining law “clearly and unambiguously contemplates that the impasse will be resolved exclusively by the legislative body, and as observed by PERC Commissioner Delgado in his dissent below, ‘[t]here is nothing in the impasse resolution proceeding that allows a chief executive officer to reject the resolution of the impasse issues by the legislative body.’ Indeed, it is clear from the law that the chief executive officer’s role in the impasse process is limited to that of an advocate for the governmental entity’s position on the impasse issue. Accordingly, where, as here, the chief executive officer is not a member of the legislative body, it would be inconsistent with the statute and general principles of due process to allow the executive to participate in the legislative body’s decision-making process beyond his or her role as an advocate.

“We recognize that the collective bargaining law does not dictate the procedure by which the legislative body is to ‘take action to resolve the disputed impasse issues,’ but we find no support in the statute for the proposition that a mayoral veto can be viewed as the legislative body having not yet acted to resolve the impasse. This interpretation makes no sense and is clearly erroneous because the vetoed action was action taken by the legislative body to resolve the impasse and it would have been the legislative body’s final action on the matter were it not for the veto.

“We have not overlooked the fact that the Mayor’s veto authority in this case was derived from the Charter, which was adopted pursuant to the authority granted by the Florida Constitution. However, the constitutional provision pursuant to which the Charter was adopted makes clear that general law supersedes any conflicting provision of the Charter. Here, based on our conclusion that the bargaining law does not permit the chief executive officer to have any role in the legislative body’s resolution of the impasse beyond his or her role as an advocate, it follows that the Charter is in conflict with, and superseded by, the statute insofar as the Charter purports to give the Mayor the authority to veto the action taken by the Commission to resolve disputed impasse issues.”

Dade County Police Benevolent Association, 2015 WL 798849 (Fla. App. 2015).