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Ewing police unions sue to stop layoffs, claiming

Monday, August 2, 2010

Staff Writer

EWING — Ewing PBA Local 111 and the Superior Officers Association — which represent every police
officer in Ewing below the rank of chief — are suing Ewing Township over the impending Aug. 18 layoff of
six police officers.

The lawsuit filed July 30 in Mercer County Superior Court asks that Ewing be required to show cause why
the township should not be enjoined and restrained from instituting proposed layoffs for a period of at least
90 days until the township can give a “proper accounting” of its budget and a transition plan is put in place.

The lawsuit further asks that Ewing be temporarily enjoined and restrained from laying off, demoting or
otherwise altering the plaintiffs’ rank, position or title with all associated authority, salary, benefits and

The PBA represents all fulltime police officers below the rank of sergeant, including the 6 patrol division
officers targeted for layoff. The SOA represents all full-time sergeants, lieutenants and captains.

Ewing currently has 78 police officers, including the sole remaining captain, who will retire in September,
leaving 12 lieutenants, 12 sergeants (1 is about to retire), and 53 patrol division officers.

Resulting police department reshuffling will eliminate 3 school resource officers and reassign them to patrol
duties, and certain types of crimes, such as identity theft, will not be investigated.

The lawsuit alleges Ewing Township is targeting the department’s junior members for lay off and they should
not be used as “pawns” in a political game as they are here.

The township as employer wants the PBA and SOA to make concessions without an established reason,
and there were no negotiations in good faith, no give and take, no showing that there were alternatives, the
lawsuit says.

“It was coercion at its worse form; it was extortion,” the lawsuit alleges, citing Black’s Law Dictionary to
define “extort” as “to exact wrongfully by threat or intimidation.”

Laying off these six officers will cause them irreparable harm financially and personally, and will “increase
danger to the officers who continue to work and (to) the public, which cannot be ignored.”

Ewing’s law enforcement activity increased by 21.4 percent for the first half of 2010, compared to the same
period in 2009, according to the Uniform Crime Report published by the N.J. State Police, the complaint
“Reducing manpower on a shift is a managerial prerogative when the chosen staffing level is safe. But it’s
not a managerial prerogative when the staffing level is lowered out of spite and for the purpose of coercing
the PBA into taking specific contract terms without negotiating those terms in good faith,” the lawsuit says.

Filed by the Hackensack-based law firm of Loccke, Correia, Schlager, Limsky & Rukosky, the lawsuit seeks
summary compliance with the state law that allows the governing body of a municipality to demote or lay off
within a police department in good faith for economical reasons.

The lawsuit says Ewing’s decision to lay off six officers “will impact the safety of the public as well as the
safety of the remaining officers” and the public, and the township has not demonstrated that an economic
reason for the layoffs exists.

In a prepared response, Mayor Jack Ball last night reiterated his position that Ewing is forced to make these
personnel reductions to compensate for the loss of $2.5 million in state aid for Fiscal 2011, which started
July 1, 2010.

That’s the same day that the police received a 4 percent pay hike under the most recent collective
bargaining agreement with Ewing Township covering the period from July 1, 2008, to June 30, 2014.

Ball, who has asked the police to accept a one-year pay freeze and contribute 1.5 percent of their salaries
toward their health benefits to avoid the six layoffs, accused the police unions of filing the lawsuit to advance
the financial interests of their members.

“Unfortunately, it appears the unions, representing the highest-paid township employees and knowing the
township is in financial difficulty, would rather lose officers than make concessions,” Ball said.

The mayor noted he has been assured by Police Chief Robert Coulton that public safety will be maintained
by redistributing the force. “Fortunately, due to a new schedule, there are more police man-hours per year
now than 3 years ago,” Ball said.

“I may not be the most popular guy amongst township employees these days in recommending we lay off 6
police officers and 15 other township employees, but we have had a hiring freeze for years, we laid off part-
time personnel last year, and we are eliminating almost $2 million in not filling open positions, yet it is still not
enough. $2.5 million is a lot to cut.”

Township Attorney Michael S. Hartsough, who confirmed he had received an electronic copy of the the
lawsuit filed Friday, said it won’t be official until he gets delivery by certified mail or a sheriff’s officer.

Hartsough said he believes Superior Court is not the proper venue for this case. Since the police layoffs
were approved by the state Civil Service Commission, he said this appeal should be adjudicated by an
administrative law judge sitting in Mercer County.

URL: http://www.trentonian.com/articles/2010/08/03/news/doc4c578c0465f3b202280032.prt

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