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S.L. talks with police union falter over president's exclusion

Negotiations between the Salt Lake Police Association and the city were effectively cut off Thursday after the association's board of directors refused to enter mediation without president David Greer.

"We cannot agree to the condition that President Greer be excluded from the process," stated a letter sent just before noon to Mayor Rocky Anderson.

The police association's refusal came despite an earlier ultimatum from Anderson that the city would not negotiate directly with Greer.

"We're not going to enter into mediations with the police uinon and we'll prepare a compensation proposal for the City Council," mayoral spokesman Joshua Ewing said. "We'll start talking with the City Council next week."

The mayor is expected to present that package to the council on or before May 1, Ewing said.

The police association letter signed by its eight board of director members, but excluding Greer, called keeping Greer from the negotiations "offensive."

"Such a condition . . . may constitute an unfair labor practice by the city," the letter stated.

At a Wednesday press conference — the first time Greer or anyone from the police association has spoken publicly since contract negotiations with the city broke down March 16 — Greer insisted he'd have a hand in the bargaining process.

"He can no more demand that I not be part of it than I can demand that he resign as mayor," Greer said.

Greer can still tell his side of the story to the City Council when the mayor's compensation package is presented.

Ever since contract negotiations broke down, Anderson has labeled Greer a bully, saying the police association president threatened to strike during the 2002 Winter Games.

"I never made the threats as alleged by the mayor," Greer said Wednesday. "When we feel that we are not being heard, we take our information to the people with informational picketing."

Greer's first public statements came after a two-hour police association meeting in which members unanimously approved the letter that was sent to the city.

Rank-and-file police officers also reaffirmed their support for Greer as their association president and leader of the contract negotiation team. Earlier this week, Anderson said he'd spoken with some officers who believed Greer was going over the top in his negotiating tactics.

"I think he's doing a great job," one officer said after Wednesday's meeting. "I think he knows the issues and he's got his numbers correct."

The recent chasm between the city and police association has centered around differing statistics.

In previous contract negotiations over the past eight years, the city has used pay scale comparisons with cities of similar size around the United States to set officers' salaries. This time, however, Anderson and his negotiating team are comparing Salt Lake's police pay with local agencies around the state.

The Citizen's Compensation Committee, made up of seven people appointed by the mayor and approved by the City Council, decided this year it didn't make sense for Salt Lake City to compare its police wages to national markets, Ewing said. Five of the seven committee members were on the committee before Anderson became mayor, according to Ewing.

"We don't compete with L.A. for police officers," Ewing said. "We don't have the same cost of living as those other cities. We don't have the same budget restrictions as those other cities so it doesn't make sense to compare to those other national markets."

Greer, however, claims the premier police agency in Utah's capitol city deserves equal pay to similar-sized agencies around the country.

Even worse, according to Greer, is the fact that Salt Lake City's fire fighters make more on average than police.

"We're not being paid equally with similar markets locally or nationally," Greer said.

The police association was asking for a 6 percent pay raise each year for the next two years, while the city offered a 2.5 percent pay increase during the first two years and a 2 percent increase for the third year.

At a Wednesday afternoon press conference held just before the police association met, Anderson reiterated his desire for equal and fair pay for the city's police officers.

He also stood firm in his refusal to negotiate again with Greer, who stood behind the corps of reporters during Anderson's remarks.

"No one should have to put up with this rude, threatening conduct," Anderson said.

But Greer, who's previously locked horns with Anderson before he was the mayor over police brutality issues, said the threats of picketing and ending contract talks are all part of the negotiating game.

"I don't really think that I'm a bully," Greer said, "but I'm really not as diplomatic as some. I tend not to hold back."


E-MAIL: djensen@desnews.com