Thursday, January 5, 2012

Court Rejects "Fiscal Emergency" Reopener, Upholds Stockton POA's Right to Enforce Contract

In a closely-watched case with national implications, the San Joaquin Superior Court dismissed the City of Stockton's claim it could unilaterally reopen a closed contract.  In Stockton Police Officers' Association et al. v. City of Stockton et al., the City claimed it could force the Stockton Police Officers' Association to reopen a closed contract and renegotiate because the City declared so-called "fiscal emergency."

The Court rejected the City's claims, finding the union "was not required to accept the City's invitation to discuss or renegotiate the terms of a closed contract, notwithstanding the City's declaration of fiscal emergency" and "was within its right to refuse" to reopen its contract, dismissing the City's claim.

The City of Stockton's claims are part of an emerging trend by some public sector management firms to try to expand the definition of "emergency" and create a new tool for public agencies seeking to get out of contractual obligations. Tellingly, however, the Court noted the City "has not identified any contractual or statutory basis for its claim that SPOA must meet and confer, bargain, or renegotiate a closed labor agreement."

Mastagni Law attorneys David E. Mastagni, William M. Briggs, Isaac S. Stevens and B.J. Pierce represent the Stockton Police Officers' Association in the matter. The case was previously profiled by Fox News commentator Tom Sullivan.