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October 30. 2013 6:52PM

Battle over Nashua police contract escalates

NASHUA — Several city aldermen say they will attempt to override the mayor’s veto concerning a portion of the Police Supervisors Association contract approved by the Board of Aldermen last week.

“I am surprised that she vetoed it,” Alderman Diane Sheehan, Ward 3, said of Mayor Donnalee Lozeau. However, Sheehan said this provides city officials with an ideal opportunity to “walk the walk,” adding it is important that the board does not allow the veto to stand.

Last week, Mayor Donnalee Lozeau voiced strong opposition to the collective bargaining agreement with the police union, although it was ultimately approved by aldermen.

On Tuesday, Lozeau exercised a line-item veto, which is permitted under the city’s charter, concerning just one cost item in the agreement.

“I cannot support a provision that permits 32 city employees to avoid the actual cost of paying back their retroactive health care premium increases using sick days,” Lozeau wrote in a letter to City Clerk Paul Bergeron. “… Although some may argue there is a cash value to these accrued sick days, under the proposed agreement, that is not correct — there is no real cash value being returned to the health care program.”

Lozeau is asking that the line item veto be implemented and that the associated cost item be removed from the contract.

“This will provide the parties with the opportunity to maintain the provision that actually reimburses the city’s health care program,” she said. “By accepting the removal of this one provision, the parties will, without the need for further approval, have the contract they negotiated.”

Lozeau added that the veto action was not something she took lightly.

“I hope you will focus on this single item and recognize the dangerous precedent it sets,” she wrote.

Alderman-at-Large Barbara Pressly said she was unaware the mayor could veto one provision of a vote by the board.

“I will be supporting an override,” Pressly said. The Board of Aldermen, she added, should stick with its original decision to support the union contract in its entirety

Aldermen-at-Large Mark Cookson and David Deane also said they support the override.

According to the Office of the Mayor, the city charter gives the mayor veto power over legislation approved by aldermen.

Aldermen are expected to address the veto at their next meeting on Nov. 12, at which time a move to reconsider the original vote will be made. A majority vote is required for reconsideration.

If the motion to reconsider passes, an alderman may then move to override the veto. Ten votes are required to override the mayor’s veto.

“While I recognize that the Board of Aldermen want to move forward with this contract and that there is a benefit to bring negotiations to a close, it should not be at any cost,” said Lozeau.

Alderman Dan Moriarty, Ward 9, was the sole board member to vote in opposition of the union contract, in part because he thought the wage increases were slightly too high. On Tuesday, he said he is still against the contract.
khoughton@newstote.com


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