Judge rules in favor of PBA to allow convention attendance

Labor Relations Report

New Jersey statutes N.J.S.A. 40A:14-177 and 11A:6-10 (Civil Service) govern the number of union representatives who are permitted to attend state conventions and receive paid leave. The statute provides as follows:

Attendance at State, national convention of certain organizations.

The heads of the county offices of the several counties and the head of every department, bureau and office in the government of the various municipalities shall give a leave of absence with pay to persons in the service of the county or municipality who are duly authorized representatives of an employee organization as defined in subsection e. of section 3 of P.L.1941, c.100 (C.34:13A-3) and affiliated with the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association, Inc., Fraternal Order of Police, Firemen’s Mutual Benevolent Association, Inc. or Professional Fire Fighters Association of New Jersey to attend any State or national convention of such organization, provided, however, that no more than 10 percent of the employee organization’s membership shall be permitted such a leave of absence with pay, except that no less than two and no more than 10 authorized representatives shall be entitled to such leave, unless more than 10 authorized representatives are permitted such a leave of absence pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement negotiated by the employer and the representatives of the employee organization, and for employee organizations with more than 5,000 members, a maximum of 25 authorized representatives shall be entitled to such leave. A certificate of attendance to the State convention shall, upon request, be submitted by the representative so attending. Leave of absence shall be for a period inclusive of the duration of the convention with a reasonable time allowed for time to travel to and from the convention, provided that such leave shall be for no more than seven days.

Old Bridge PBA Local 127, represented by Nicholas Milewski of Mets, Schiro & McGovern LLP, filed a complaint in Middlesex County Superior Court in support of an Order to Show Cause seeking temporary restraints against the Township of Old Bridge. After the acting chief denied four of the seven members the PBA submitted for convention leave, the PBA filed a grievance on Feb. 23. With the Mini Convention scheduled to begin on March 7, the injunction was necessary for the association representatives to attend.

According to the complaint, the PBA currently includes 70 police officer members. The PBA and the township are parties to a collective negotiation agreement (CNA), which refers to the number of delegates and alternate delegates who are permitted to attend the convention with paid leave.

The contract provides that a delegate and “two (2) alternate P.B.A. Local #127 Delegates” will be permitted to attend the convention. A delegate is a member who is elected by the membership to represent the Local association at the state level, voting on State PBA matters and acting as liaison between the organizations. Alternate delegate is also an elected position, which carries out the duties in place of the delegate when the delegate is absent. Alternate delegates can also be appointed. A duly authorized representative, as provided in the Act, is defined by the Employer–Employee Relations Act (EERA), at N.J.S.A. 34:13A-1, et seq., and “shall include any organization, agency or person authorized or designated by a public employer, public employee, group of public employees, or public employee association to act on its behalf and represent it or them.”

On Feb. 16, PBA President Vincent Galgano emailed scheduling officer Lt. James McCauly a list of PBA representatives that he requested be given release time from work to attend the 2022 New Jersey State PBA Mini Convention. The list consisted of seven PBA members and included the Local president, State Delegate, Local vice president, Local recording secretary and the Local trustees (executive board members). Lt. McCauley sent a return email to President Galgano stating that Acting Chief Mandola denied a portion of the list of officers that was submitted. Acting Chief Mandola stated that he would only allow the delegate and two alternate delegates to attend the convention with paid leave time. Moreover, the acting chief stated that the alternate delegates selected to attend the convention would remain the alternates for the rest of the year.

To summarize the need for the relief that was sought, several key points were included:

  • Since the PBA currently has 70 active members, the Act permits no fewer than two and no more than seven representatives (10 percent of the membership) to attend.
  • The township must comply with the statutes and permit the seven union representatives identified by President Galgano to attend the convention.
  • If the township is not compelled to adhere to the law, PBA members will forever be deprived of their right to attend the convention.
  • Moreover, there is no authority granting the acting chief the power to determine whether alternate delegates remain in their positions.
  • The acting chief must be enjoined from attempting to enforce such a rule.
  • The PBA has demonstrated a substantial likelihood of success on the merits and irreparable harm that cannot be remedied by money damages.

On March 1, Judge Lisa Vignuolo granted the temporary restraining order indicating that “immediate and irreparable damage will result before notice can be given and a hearing held, and for good cause shown.” At the time of this writing, I do not know if the township will appear to show cause. The law is clear, and the judge issuing this temporary injunction should indicate that the PBA is on solid footing if they proceed. Unfortunately, enforcing the law had to cost the PBA legal fees, but it was necessary, and ultimately, money well spent. The township cannot claim the same need. This was a huge waste of taxpayer money and contrary to public policy. The decision-makers in Old Bridge have a responsibility to make sure that public funds are not used to further suspected PBA animus. Hopefully, the taxpayers are paying attention and willing to take action.