A Miami-Dade Circuit judge has sided with the Dade County Police Benevolent Association, ruling the city of Hialeah was wrong to change its pension laws without consulting the police union.
At issue was an 18-year-old city ordinance stating the city could not unilaterally change its pension plan without consulting the city’s three unions.
Two of the unions representing firefighters and general services employees agreed to give up that benefit, but the 250-member Hialeah police union did not. Still, the city repealed the law when the economic recession hit, intent on decreasing pension benefits to save money.
The PBA challenged the change in 2010 after reaching an impasse in collective bargaining.
The city argued it had “broad home rule” to enact any ordinance that it deemed necessary to “promote the comfort, convenience, safety and happiness of its citizens as long as the ordinance was not in conflict with the general laws of Florida.”
But Miami Dade Circuit Judge Lisa Walsh disagreed, granting summary judgment to the PBA in its declaratory action July 11.
“The city purposefully violated its own ordinance and engaged in an unfair labor practice to the detriment of the PBA in order to insulate itself from any redress in the circuit court,” the judge concluded.
A final hearing will be scheduled on an injunction to prevent the ordinance from being repealed.
“We feel vindicated,” said PBA general counsel Andrew Axelrad. “Pending an appeal, the city will have to change the pension law back.”
Ogletree Deakins of counsel William Radford, the city’s outside counsel, did not return calls for comment by deadline.