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Police union, officer take aim at Arroyo Grande 

Arroyo Grande is facing another two legal challenges; one from its police officer’s union alleging unfair bargaining practices, and a second from a current officer accusing the city of not following due process in dealing with an unspecified disciplinary action.

On Dec. 20, the Arroyo Grande Police Officers Association filed an unfair practices charge against the city with the Public Employees Relations Board, alleging the city retaliated against the union after it hired a lawyer to represent it in ongoing contract negotiations.

City Manager Steve Adams said he couldn’t comment on the specifics of the complaint, but dismissed it as “aggressive negotiating tactics.”

“Since the City is currently involved in labor negotiations with the POA, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on any of the specific items in the unfair practice charge filed, but the charge is unfounded and part of some very aggressive negotiating tactics,” Arroyo Grande City Manager Steve Adams wrote in an e-mail to New Times. “When [the Public Employee Relations Board] investigates this charge, we are confident it will be dismissed.”

The union asked the relations board to issue a cease and desist order to the city, demanding it not issue a 3.5 percent pay cut and ordering it to reimburse the union for attorney fees.

On Dec. 31, Officer Michelle Cota, who originally filed a sexual harassment and retaliation civil lawsuit against the city in SLO Superior Court in December 2011, filed a petition with the court alleging the city didn’t follow its policies outlined in a memorandum of understanding with the officers union in regard to an appeal of an unspecified disciplinary measure taken against her.

Cota alleges that the city violated her due process when she filed the appeal, which, under the memorandum, requires a third-party arbitrator, the petition argues. She claims the city refused to provide such a negotiator, but insisted on one selected and paid by the city.

Ken Yuwiler, Cota’s attorney for the Dec. 31 petition, pointed out that the latest action has no relation to her 2011 civil lawsuit. Cota has been with the department since 2003. The latest legal action marks the fourth against the department since Police Chief Steve Annibali was hired in 2007.

Adams said he hadn’t had a chance to review Cota’s latest action with City Attorney Tim Carmel as of press time, but that the city would release a comment in the days to come.

Cota is currently scheduled for an April trial-setting conference for her prior civil case before Judge Charles C. Crandall in SLO Superior Court.

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