Thursday, May 15, 2014

PERB Asserts Jurisdiction Over Police and Police Management for Factfinding and Denies Untimely Request

PERB's recent decision in City of Redondo Beach was significant for two reasons.  First, while PERB does not ordinarily assert jurisdiction over police and police management due to exceptions outlined in MMBA sections 3509 and 3511, it found these exceptions do not apply to its authority to appoint a factfinder under section 3505.4.  Second, PERB enforced the 30-day deadline to request factfinding against the association, even though the city did not respond to a request for mediation until after the timeline expired.

The Redondo Beach Police Officers' Association ("Association") and the City of Redondo Beach ("City") were negotiating for a successor MOU.  After sixteen months of negotiations, the Association declared impasse in a letter to the City on July 11, 2013.  The letter triggered the 30-day timeline for the Association to request factfinding.  The Association also requested mediation, which is voluntary, pursuant to the Employer-Employee-Relations policy.  Finally, on October 23, 2013, the City declined the Association's request for mediation.  A few weeks later, the City presented the Association with its "Last, Best, and Final Offer."

The Association then requested factfinding on November 20, 2013, but was denied for untimeliness.  The Association appealed arguing MMBA section 3505.4 contemplates factfinding only after mediation.  It claimed since the City did not respond to the Association's request for mediation for three months, the 30-day timeline did not begin until after the City denied the mediation request on October 23, 2013.  The City argued the Association's deadline to request factfinding was triggered by its letter declaring impasse on July 11, 2013, and the factfinding request was untimely.

Although the parties did not raise the issue, PERB held it had jurisdiction over the appeal.  PERB found that section 3509, exempting management employees from PERB's jurisdiction, and section 3511, exempting peace officers from its jurisdiction, did not apply to requests for factfinding under section 3505.4.  It held the Legislature did not intend for those exceptions to apply to PERB's authority to appoint a factfinder because the Legislature did not include similar language in section 3505.4.

In addition, PERB held the Association's request for factfinding was untimely.  Section 3505.4 gives the sole right to request factfinding to the employee organization.  PERB Regulation 32802 provides if a dispute is not submitted to mediation, a request for factfinding must be submitted within 30 days after either party declares impasse.  The fact that the City waited three months to deny mediation did not alleviate the Association's responsibility to request factfinding within the 30-day statutory deadline.