Local News Next Louisville Politics

Agreement Ends Take-Home Car Dispute

Louisville Metro Government and the Fraternal Order of Police have reached an agreement that will end their legal dispute over the charging of fees for police take-home vehicles.

The fees were imposed by previous Mayor Jerry Abramson to help offset a revenue shortfall, but were challenged in court by the police union, which contended they were a violation of its contract with Metro Government.

The courts and state Labor Department have sided with the FOP. The agreement means the city will drop its appeal. Current Mayor Greg Fischer says the legal battle had become expensive and contentious.

“The broader issue is how do we build a high performance city, the best police force in the country. And we can’t do that if we’re not talking with each other and we’re fighting with each other,” he said.

The deal calls for Metro Government to reimburse fees that were collected during the dispute. Officers who use take home vehicles for off-duty jobs will have to pay a monthly gasoline fee, probably around $50 per month, depending on the price of gas.

Fraternal Order of Police President David Mutchler says members overwhelmingly approved the deal Tuesday night.

“I don’t think Mayor Fischer would disagree that the most important job of the mayor is tot kept he citizens safe, and as the lead enabler in doing that, all we ask is to be treated with dignity and respect,” he said.

(In Photo: FOP President David Mutchler and Mayor Greg Fischer sign agreement and Police Chief Robert White looks on)

Local News Next Louisville Politics

Police to Vote on Take Home Car Settlement

The Louisville Fraternal Order of Police chapter is set to vote Tuesday on a settlement with Metro Government over take home cars.

Last week, the FOP website reported that the city had tentatively agreed to drop fees on officers who use their cars off duty and to repay the officers for the fees that have been collected since they were first imposed in 2008. It’s estimated the settlement would tentatively cost the city about $1 million, though most of the money collected through the fees has reportedly been kept in escrow.

The FOP’s roughly 1,200 members will vote on the settlement Tuesday evening. The Courier-Journal reports that FOP president Dave Mutchler–who has not returned calls for comment–sent officers an e-mail asking them to support the settlement, and stressed four of its provisions:

* The city will reimburse each current and former sworn member for all gasoline fees paid prior to the agreement, or for nearly three years.

* No gasoline fees will be charged to members who do not use a Louisville Metro Police Department vehicle in conjunction with secondary employment.

* Members will pay a gasoline fee for each month in which they use a police vehicle in association with secondary employment. Such fees may fluctuate and will be determined based on the average monthly retail price for a gallon of regular gasoline.

* The agreement will be in force for two years.

Local News Next Louisville Politics

Fischer Hopes For Fresh Start With LMPD

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer is hoping to forge a new relationship with the Fraternal Order of Police.

The FOP and the mayor’s office were previously at odds on a number of issues, most recently whether officers can be made to pay to use their police vehicles while off-duty. The case has been appealed several times, but Fischer says out-of-court negotiations with the FOP will begin this week.

“Any type of new start is refreshing for everybody involved,” he says. “So you can put together any type of old thoughts that you have and say it’s a new day. I certainly feel that from the FOP, from the chief to the FOP and from the FOP to the mayor’s office, so I’m encouraged by that.”

FOP president Dave Mutchler says he’s hoping for an out-of-court agreement now that Fischer has become mayor.

“It’s very evident to me that this is a completely different administration as it regards to the police and the FOP,” he says. “We’re looking forward to being able to sit down, like we have recently even, and negotiate these things.”

Police Chief Robert White has also expressed his hopes to work more closely with his officers.

“Recently there was a reorganization. Part of the reason for that reorganization, or one of the advantages of that reorganization, is it will permit me to spend more time out in the community—which I spend a considerable amount of time—and with the men and women in the department to let them know they are supported,” he says.

White, Mutchler and Fischer also praised the Louisville Police Foundation’s new distress fund, which will give payouts to officers and their families if the officer is harmed in the line of duty.

Local News Next Louisville

Police Car Dispute Could Continue Into The Next Administration

The dispute over take-home cars for Louisville police officers continues. Mayor Jerry Abramson’s office will appeal a Jefferson Circuit judge’s ruling that the city must negotiate any fees for police officers who use their cars off duty. And Abramson’s appeal may end up in the hands of the next mayor.

The case began in 2008, when Abramson imposed fees on any city cars used off duty. The decision affected about 11 hundred police cars. The officers argued that the cars are payment and must be negotiated into the union contract.

The state Labor Cabinet sided with the police, as did the Jefferson Circuit judge. The newest appeal will likely be heard in the coming months.

That means a new mayor could be in office during the hearing. Democratic mayoral candidate Greg Fischer’s spokesperson says Fischer hopes that isn’t the case, but says the police contract should be followed as originally written.

Republican candidate Hal Heiner’s spokesperson says the mayor should withdraw the appeal.

The Fraternal Order of Police has endorsed Heiner in the mayor’s race.

For more on the origins of the dispute, click here.

Local News Next Louisville

Firefighters And Police Split On Mayoral Candidate Endorsements

The Louisville firefighters union and the local Fraternal Order of Police have endorsed opposing candidates in the Louisville mayor’s race.

The firefighters are supporting Democrat Greg Fischer. The police, however, favor Republican Hal Heiner. FOP President Dave Mutchler says he was not happy that Fischer said he would retain Chief Robert White if elected.

“We were a little bit miffed that Mr. Fischer would make personnel decisions in the midst of a campaign. We kind of felt that those types of decisions—putting department heads in place—are for the mayor to make,” he says.

Both unions say their candidate would be better to work with than current Mayor Jerry Abramson, with whom they have clashed over pay and contract issues. Firefighters union president Craig Willman says he likes Fischer’s approach working out such disputes.

“He’s already been a better candidate than the previous mayor we had in dealing with negotiations and the obstructions that we’ve had to deal with and long, contentious negotiations which we were able to not find any resolve in,” he says.

The firefighters’ decision was made based on interviews conducted last spring and meetings with Fischer held afterward. The FOP conducted new interviews.

Local News Next Louisville

City Undecided On Appeal In Take-Home Car Case

Louisville Metro Government has been handed another legal defeat in its attempts to collect fees on take-home police cars.

In 2008, the city imposed a fee on police officers who used their city-provided cars off duty. The fees were increased over the years to help fill budget gaps. The Fraternal Order of Police challenged the fees, saying they violated union contracts.

On Wednesday, a Jefferson Circuit judge upheld a state Labor Cabinet decision in favor of the police officers, and blocking the city from collecting the fees. Mayor’s spokesperson Lindsay English says the city may still appeal the decision, but a decision has not yet been made.

“We are reviewing the judge’s order and we’re consulting with the county attorney’s office to decide what the next step will be,” she says.

The Labor Cabinet and the judge both said the fees are part of police officers’ compensation, and not the job perks the city claims they are. The judge said fees could be negotiated into officers’ union contracts. The judge did not rule that the city should repay fees that have been collected, though the city was encouraged to negotiate reimbursement.

English says the fees were not part of the current budget, so while the city may still appeal the decision, the budget will not have to be revised.

Most recently, officers paid $100 per month for their cars.

Local News

State Sides With FOP In Take-Home Car Dispute

The Kentucky Labor Cabinet has upheld a hearing officer’s recommendation in a dispute between the Louisville Metro Police union and the administration of Mayor Jerry Abramson over the city’s take-home car program.

Labor Secretary J.R. Gray agreed with the ruling issued in May that Metro Government cannot charge police officers for the use of their take home cruisers.

The charges were implemented as part of the effort to help close the city’s budget deficit. It was estimated the move would save the city $1.4 million this fiscal year.

The Fraternal Order of Police contends that the take home program is part of its collective bargaining agreement and cannot be changed without negotiations. The Abramson administration says the cars are a privilege and not a right.

Mayor’s spokesperson Kerri Richardson said in a statement that Metro Government will appeal the Labor Cabinet ruling but will suspend the collection of the take-home car fees.

Local News

McGuire Says FOP Ready for Court Battle

After an opinion yesterday in favor of the Louisville Fraternal Order of Police, the union president says they’re ready for a possible court battle with Metro Government. 

A hearing officer with the state Labor Cabinet said yesterday the city should stop charging its police officers for use of their take-home vehicles.  The fees were put in place last year and then raised this year to offset a budget shortfall.

FOP President John McGuire says if the final opinion issued by the Labor Secretary goes their way, they’re prepared for the city to appeal to circuit court.

“In our opinion it would be a loser for the city, but they’ve drawn out long legal battles over clear, losing cases before so it wouldn’t be a surprise if they took that stance again on this,” says McGuire.

The union contends the fees are illegal because they weren’t negotiated through collective bargaining.  The city says the take-home cars are a privilege, not a right.  

Louisville Metro Government officials say they’re consulting with the county attorney’s office on how to proceed.

Local News

Labor Cabinet Officer Opposes Car Fees

A Kentucky Labor Cabinet hearing officer says Louisville Metro Government should stop collecting fees from police officers who use their cars off duty.

Mayor Jerry Abramson created the fees last year and increased them this year to help overcome budget shortfalls.

The Labor Cabinet officer says the fees violate the police union’s contract and any changes to compensation must be made through negotiations. The ruling will go to the state Labor Secretary for a final decision.

Revoking the fees would  cost the city $500,000 this fiscal year and $1.4 million next year.

In a statement, Abramson said he’s disappointed in the decision since officers do not have to pay for gas, maintenance or insurance on their cars. He says he plans to work with the County Attorney to determine what to do next.

Local News

FOP President Says Take-Home Car Issue Isn't Over

The city’s police union was dealt a blow yesterday in its ongoing battle over Louisville’s take-home car program. Mayor Jerry Abramson wants to increase fees for people who use the city’s take-home cars.

But the FOP got an injunction, saying the decision couldn’t be made without collective bargaining.

An appellate court lifted the injunction yesterday, and FOP President John McGuire says the union probably won’t fight the battle in the courts any longer.

“We will be concentrating our efforts on unfair labor practice and believe we have not only a strong case, but that it’s very clear the city violated our contract and state law when they imposed these fees without sitting down and talking with us,” says McGuire.

A hearing on the matter will be heard by the state Labor Cabinet on February 10th and 11th.

McGuire says he hopes the city will wait for a ruling from that hearing before raising the fees. A decision could take up to sixty days.