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Judge overturns arbitrator on event pay for Pittsburgh police

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014, 5:21 p.m.

An Allegheny County judge this week overturned an arbitrator's decision ordering the city of Pittsburgh to pay on-duty police officers the same time-and-a-half rate as off-duty officers when both work special events such as Steelers games.

The wage disparity issue arose last year when Officers David Lincoln and Robert Swartzwelder filed several grievances with the Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge No. 1. The officers, who were on-duty, said they should be paid the same rate — $42.12 an hour — for doing the same job as off-duty officers. That amount can be as much as $20 an hour more than the officers' regular rate.

Lincoln could not be reached, and Swartzwelder did not return calls. Sgt. Michael LaPorte, union president, said he believes Common Pleas Judge Robert Colville's ruling is wrong and the union will appeal.

“This was about pay, but what this really was about was the city mismanaging its resources to the benefit of private companies,” LaPorte said.

For example, eight officers will be on duty in the West End on Saturday, although five are being sent Downtown during the St. Patrick's Day parade, leaving the zone understaffed, he said.

“Those decisions jeopardize police officers and jeopardize the citizens of the city of Pittsburgh,” he said.

Tim McNulty, a spokesman for Mayor Bill Peduto, referred calls to Sonya Toler, spokeswoman for the public safety department. Toler did not return calls.

Colville issued his ruling on Tuesday. A copy was not immediately available. Arbitrator Philip W. Parkinson sided with the union Sept. 30, calling the pay difference “inequitable.”

The city appealed, contending that Parkinson did not have jurisdiction to make the decision, and said city officials have a right to assign on-duty officers anywhere they want, including at special events where off-duty officers are already stationed.

Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.




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