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Hearing set for RPD pay dispute; Police union, city take steps to resolve disagreement

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Roswell Police Officers’ Association president Donald O’Connor, left, listens in on the discussion from the back of the conference room at City Hall Thursday morning. The meeting involved the Labor Management Relations Board, city attorney Aaron Holloman, right, and RPOA attorney Frederick M. Mowrer, who joined in on the conversation telephonically. (Trevier Gonzalez Photo)

An evidentiary hearing against the city of Roswell that alleges prohibited practices regarding the pay of Roswell police officers has been set for early February.

The Labor Management Relations Board, led by chairman Richard E. Olson, met with Roswell Police Officers’ Association president Donald O’Connor Thursday morning at City Hall.

The union’s attorney, Frederick M. Mowrer, also joined the conversation by telephone.

The session began with Olson disclosing to Mowrer that he has represented the city of Roswell in the past. Described as “a short stint,” the chairman said about over a year ago he had been asked on a contract basis to be the acting city attorney before Aaron Holloman had been hired.

Olson also said he occasionally represents the city, typically in law enforcement cases.

Mowrer, noting his long history of knowing Olson, said he personally believes Olson’s role wouldn’t interfere with his position on the labor relations board. O’Connor also did voice any concerns about Olson chairing the board.

The board then went to its first agenda item: Consider relief requested in the RPOA’s motion for default or, in the alternative, consider setting a hearing on the default.

Mowrer explained to the board he filed the motion for default after he had submitted a prohibited practices complaint against the city in August 2017.

“There was no answer filed by the city — or a response filed by the city to that prohibited practice complaint concerning the alleged city’s failure to pay wages as called for within the contract,” Mowrer said. “Those are step raises, to specifically identify them. I did file a motion on or about October 20, 2017, calling on the default against the city because there had been no answer filed to (the prohibited practices complaint.)”

Mowrer said the issue involving 60 days of failure to pay step raises still has not been addressed by the city.

“What I would request is that we go ahead and I ask the board to direct the city to file an answer to my prohibited practice complaint,” he said. “And that this matter be set for an evidentiary hearing.”

Holloman told the RPOA’s attorney he had filed a response on behalf of the city via email and registered mail. Holloman later apologized and offered to resubmit the response immediately after the meeting.

Mowrer thanked Holloman, and then requested the board to set an evidentiary hearing concerning the allegations raised in the prohibited practices complaint.

When asked by Olson what kind of evidence would be involved in the hearing, Mowrer said he suspected he would call up to three witnesses.

Holloman said although he anticipates more than three people, he doesn’t expect a multiple-day hearing.

“An additional wrinkle to part of this is that a lot of the discussion about the pay has been during some of the negotiations,” Holloman said. “So, part of it is whether or not those issues were addressed and communicated, so that’s where we’ll have additional witnesses beyond the three that we would need to prepare for.”

Olson then suggested the hearing be set sometime during the first weeks of February. He asked Holloman if he would be able to marshal whatever evidence he needs.

After a moment, the city attorney replied, “I can do what I need to do.”

A motion was then made and seconded without opposition for an evidentiary hearing of the RPOA’s prohibited practices complaint.

The hearing was set for 8:30 a.m. Feb. 7 at the City Hall conference room.

“We’re going to need to do it under the Open Meetings Act,” Olson said. “So we’re going to need an agenda — and I think we need to include on the agenda an opportunity for a closed session so we can go into deliberations.”

Dina E. Holcomb, a labor law attorney based out of Albuquerque who was hired by the city of Roswell, informed the board the exchange of documents and lists of witnesses should be submitted no later than five calendar days before commencement of the hearing.

O’Connor said the Roswell Police Officers’ Association is continuing to work to reach a consensus with the city.

“We’re just continuing to move forward to resolve the issues,” O’Connor said.

The city of Roswell also reassured it is willing to cooperate.

“The city is willing to work with RPOA throughout the process where it can,” Holloman said. “The city trusts the process to provide a fair resolution to the matter.”

Multimedia-Crime reporter Trevier Gonzalez can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.