It's bargaining time for the Boise Police Department's 225 union members, and the City of Boise is lawyering up for the dealings. The city has contracted with Seattle attorney Otto Klein to be lead negotiator in ongoing--some say tumultuous--dealings with the police union. Negotiations for a new salary contract, which are regular affairs, will now be managed by a federal mediator. The referee was requested by the Local No. 486 of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, led locally by Kip Wills. That group asked for the mediation on July 28. On August 10, Mayor Dave Bieter sent a letter back to Wills acknowledging the need for a third party, given the disagreements over the city's insurance plan coverage and costs. In a notice on its Web site, www.boisepolice.net, which has since been taken down, Wills said Bieter's office "continues to stonewall us and drag its feet."
In an e-mail to BW, Wills later called the whole process "a farce, with no one wanting to accept responsibility."
The dispute, both sides agree, is over the insurance offered to police officers, which is different from the one most city employees, including Bieter, rely upon.
Bieter said he wasn't surprised by the need for mediation services. He was disappointed, he said, given that the firefighters union voted earlier this summer to accept the standard city insurance benefits plan, and accept a 3 percent salary increase during each of the next two years.
"The firefighters saw the correlation and they could give on that," Bieter said.
In his posting on the boisepolice.net site, Wills said the city wants police to accept an insurance plan that is worth $400 a month less in exchange for the pay raise.
"Hopefully we can reach a middle ground in mediation and there won't have to be a 'next step,'" Wills wrote in his e-mail. "Since no other steps are provided for, it would come down to a matter of political will, I suppose, but we hope to avoid that."
Of about 266 officers on staff at BPD, city officials said, about 225 are in the union. The last time the city ended up in a contract dispute with the police, officers picketed downtown.