The Tulsa City Council voted 8-0 on Thursday to deny a resolution calling for an election regarding an arbitration decision on police pay.
Councilors said calling an election that would not take place didn't make sense. The decision comes after the Mayor filed a request with the City Clerk's Office on May 29 requesting the Council to call the special election. The Mayor's Office said yesterday that the results of the election would also be unconstitutional, because the election could not be held until the next fiscal year. Under Oklahoma law, the City cannot agree to contracts which affect the previous fiscal year. The Mayor's Office could then request the Council to cancel the election. The current fiscal year ends on June 30, and the election would have been scheduled for Nov. 4.
The Mayor's Office said calling the election would essentially void the arbitration decision, forcing the police and the City to operate under the terms of the 2013 contract.
The Council voted against calling for an election where the results would be unconstitutional, though the City's legal department advised the Council that in its opinion, Councilors were legally obligated under state law to call the election and to not do so would place them at risk of being sued and removed from office.
Council Chair Karen Gilbert said: "I understand the constraint in our budget right now, but this Council has from day one, when we knew there was a deficit, been working with the Mayor's Office to see what we could do to subsidize that deficit. I'm very disheartened that we are put in this position and that our legal department, unfortunately, has told us it's something that we have to do. I'm ready to take the risk."
Councilor G.T. Bynum said: "The foremost responsibility of local elected officials is the safety of our fellow citizens. In this instance, the Council was being asked to call an election which all parties agreed would be unconstitutional. I am proud of my Council colleagues for defending the Oklahoma Constitution, and am hopeful this will afford us the opportunity to make a dangerous job somewhat more predictable for Tulsa Police Officers and their families."
Mayor Bartlett filed a request with the City Clerk's Office on May 29 requesting the City Council call a special election regarding the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) arbitration ruling.
The arbitration board ruled in favor of the police union, granting salary step-increases for eligible officers at a cost of $507,000. The City of Tulsa's offer was a one-time pay increase stipend of 1 percent for all police officers at a cost of $579,000.
Although the FOP proposal costs less, the City said it would be a permanent pay increase for officers and would increase to $1 million in fiscal year 2015. Additionally, the City said it would be an ongoing cost year after year, one it could not afford given the current budget situation.
The police union said step increases were promised to officers when they were hired, as long as they performed well, and pay stability is important for recruiting and keeping top police talent.