Attorneys with the Philadelphia Solicitor’s Office have filed a petition in the state’s First Judicial District seeking to set aside an arbitration award in a case involving the city’s police union.
The petition, filed April 19 at the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas by Toi Shields, a senior attorney with the Solicitor’s Office’s Labor & Employment Unit, seeks to have a judge vacate an arbitrator’s awarding of pension service credit to a Philadelphia police officer who was fired but later reinstated to his job.
The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, which represents city officers, initiated the arbitration matter by submitting a grievance on behalf of Roosevelt Poplar on Jan. 5, 2011, according to the petition.
The grievance alleged that the City of Philadelphia violated the terms of the collective bargaining agreement with the police union when it denied Poplar the ability to purchase pension service credit in accordance with a 1997 arbitration award by arbitrator John Skonier.
The city had denied the grievance based on the fact that it was untimely and that the city hadn’t violated the collective bargaining agreement because Poplar was not eligible to purchase pension service credit for the period of his dismissal between 1995 and 1997, the petition states.
Poplar, who was first hired by the police department in June 1990, and is currently vice president of the FOP, was dismissed in July 1995 for conduct unbecoming an officer.
Poplar appealed his firing and was subsequently reinstated to his job two years later.
The petition does not offer specifics surrounding Poplar’s brief termination.
Upon reinstatement, Poplar accrued sick, vacation and administrative leave time, but was ineligible to earn pension service credit for the two-year period in which he wasn’t employed by the city, the petition states.
In October 2009, Poplar contacted the pension board to get some clarification on the matter; he was informed the following month that he wasn’t eligible to receive pension service credit for the period of his dismissal because he was reinstated with full seniority but not with back pay.
After the decision was upheld y the city’s Office of Labor Relations, Poplar filed his instant grievance in early January of last year.
In late December 2011, arbitrator Ernest Weiss determined that Poplar’s grievance was, in fact, timely, and therefore arbitrable, and he directed the city to allow Poplar to purchase the pension service credit for the period in which he was unemployed.
Both the city and police union subsequently filed post-arbitration briefs.
The city argues that the arbitrator’s award should be vacated because Weiss lacked jurisdiction and because he exceeded his authority.
“The grievance was untimely because the Grievant waited twelve years to file an arbitration regarding his pension service credits during the period of his dismissal between 1995 and 1997,” the city’s petition states.
The city also argues that only the pension board, not Weiss, can make such a decision regarding pension service credit.
“Arbitrator Weiss exceeded his authority by ignoring the exclusive purview of the Board over this matter and governed by the Pension Code, rather than the arbitration process,” the petition states. “Arbitrator Weiss has usurped the jurisdiction and power of the Pension Board.”
The city requests that the arbitrator’s award be set aside and that the city is granted such other relief deemed fair and appropriate.
The case ID number is 120402250.