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SLO City Council votes to appeal the binding arbitration decision 

The San Luis Obispo City Council voted unanimously to appeal a decision by the Public Employment Relations Board that would have undone the 2011 ballot initiative Measure B.

City Attorney Christine Dietrick announced the decision following a March 10 closed session, during which she informed councilmembers and a gathering of residents that the city had a number of options following an administrative law judge ruling earlier this year. According to Dietrick, the judge ruled in favor of the city and found no violations in implementing pension reform under Measure A. However, the judge found that Measure B, which repealed the practice of binding arbitration for public safety employees, did violate state “meet and consult” rules.

Measures A and B were both passed with more than 70 percent approval. Binding arbitration was a contentious practice between the city and its labor organizations in which stalled negotiations are decided by a third party. However, when the policy was put into practice in 2008, it resulted in an estimated $4.4 million in added costs to the 2008-09 budget, and $1.8 annually thereafter.

Dietrick told councilmembers that they had a number of options, the first of which was to appeal the decision. Accepting the ruling, she said, could put SLO in further trouble because it would require the city to modify its charter, which is an action solely relegated to voters.

Before the decision, a number of residents spoke in favor of an appeal and asked that the city uphold the will of voters. Resident Carroll McKibbin called the PERB decision a “bold faced insult to our city,” a sentiment that was echoed by everyone who spoke. Another resident, Michelle Tasseff, told councilmembers, “You need to listen to the people; they run the city.”

Others, such as former councilmen Paul Brown and Andrew Carter, noted that the timing of the issue could make it more difficult for city officials to gain voter support on Measure Y, if the city decides to pursue renewal of the one-half percent sales tax measure in November. A Measure Y community forum is scheduled for March 19 at 6 p.m. in the SLO County Library Community Room.

In order to go forward with the appeal, city councilmembers authorized staffers to spend as much as $10,000 from the general fund. Due to a packed schedule, the appeal won’t go before PERB for another year, according to city officials.

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