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February 21. 2014 10:05PM

Derry town contract challenged

DERRY — Threatening possible legal action, two town councilors are contesting the council’s recent approval of a collective bargaining agreement between Derry and 29 technical and management employees.
 
 
Councilor Mark Osborne, an attorney, and Councilor Al Dimmock said Friday that they are contesting the vote based on language in the town’s charter. They said the agreement is illegal and shouldn’t be signed.

On Tuesday night, councilors voted 3-2 — with councilor Phyllis Katsakiores abstaining — to approve the new contract that was developed after about three years of negotiations between the town and the union.

Osborne and Dimmock voted against the plan. Council Chairman Michael Fairbanks joined Councilors Neil Wetherbee and Brad Benson in voting for the contract.

Osborne said in an email to Acting Administrator Larry Budreau and Fairbanks that the vote was illegal because of language in the town charter, specifically section 5.9 (B). In essence, the motion to approve the contract could only pass if “adopted by a majority vote of those present,” Osborne said in the email.

Katsakiores was still counted as being present or sitting at the meeting, even though she abstained. So, there were only three of six councilors voting in favor of the contract — not a majority, Osborne wrote in the email.

If the vote isn’t overturned, Osborne said he will take the town to court.

Dimmock said he stands by Osborne.

Budreau said Friday he is aware of the councilors’ request and has forwarded the matter to the town attorney. He said he had not received a response back as of Friday afternoon.

Budreau said the document remains unsigned as he awaits the response from the attorney.

Based on the new contract, members of the Professional Administrative and Technical Employees Union — PATE — would receive a 2.5 percent raise this fiscal year, according to the town. Under the new contract, employees would also receive raises in fiscal years 2015, 2016 and 2017 of 1.5 percent, 2 percent and 2 percent respectively.

Before the vote on Tuesday night, Osborne asked for more time in the wake of a detailed presentation by Budreau. Because the presentation was so thorough, the council and public should have more time to digest the information and the vote should be postponed until the next council meeting, Osborne said.

But the motion to postpone was rejected by the council in a 4-2 vote, with Dimmock joining Osborne in voting for postponement.

Osborne then tried to halt the roll call vote on the contract through a rarely used “charter objection.” But that attempt also failed after the council voted 3-2, with Fairbanks abstaining, to reject an appeal by Osborne. Osborne was again joined by Dimmock in voting for the appeal.

The council then voted to approve the agreement, ending the highly contentious meeting.

hmcgee@newstote.com


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