Union Can Assume City’s Negotiators Have Authority

The City of Springfield, Illinois and the Patrolmen’s Benevolent and Protective Association are parties to a collective bargaining agreement. The contract has long contained a “purging” clause requiring the expunction from personnel files after five years of all letters of suspension.

In 2013, the City and the Association entered into a Memorandum of Understanding modifying the purging clause to call for removal of suspension records four (and not five) years after they were issued, and for the expunction after four years of “all files with a finding of Not Sustained, Unfounded or Exonerated.” The MOU was signed by the Chief of Police and the Association’s president, and an assistant corporation counsel and deputy chief were present for the meeting leading up to the MOU.

At about the same time, two other things happened. The City’s mayor issued an Executive Order mandating that all MOUs “include and involve the City’s Labor Relations Manager.” Also, the City received a request for information under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for disciplinary and/or internal affairs records of the Springfield Police Department. Some of the documents that were subject to that FOIA request had already been destroyed pursuant to the purging policy. That resulted in the City beginning to ignore the purging policy, which in turn resulted in the Association filing a grievance on the issue.

The City filed an unfair labor practice complaint, alleging that the Association did not negotiate the MOU in good faith and that the MOU violated the law on records retention. The Illinois Labor Relations Board dismissed the complaint. The Board found that “there is insufficient evidence that the Union acted in bad faith when it negotiated the MOU in question. There is no evidence that the Union was aware of the pending FOIA request when it negotiated this MOU. Furthermore, this MOU was negotiated by representatives from both parties. There appears to be no dispute that at least three City representatives were involved in the negotiating and/or were present for the signing of this MOU: The Chief of Police, a Deputy Chief and an Assistant Corporation Counsel. The evidence indicates that during the course of negotiations, the City submitted a draft to the Union to review, to which the Union made a counter proposal. As noted above, the parties eventually signed the MOU on April 25, 2013.

“The City essentially argues that the City’ s representatives in this matter acted without authority when they negotiated and signed this MOU. However, there is insufficient evidence that the Union knew or should have known this. There is evidence that the Union entered into memorandums of understanding with the Chief of Police on occasions prior to this MOU. The Mayor’s May 3, 2013 Executive Order now sets forth clear parameters for who must be involved in negotiations on behalf of the City. Yet there is no evidence that the City made any such policy known to the Union prior to the signing of this MOU.

“As to the claim that the MOU involves a prohibited subject of bargaining, there is nothing inherently illegal about negotiating the removal of disciplinary records. Indeed, the parties included such language in their current CBA.”

City of Springfield, 31 PERI ¶ 145 (Ill. LRB 2015).