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Thursday, March 28, 2013

BREAKING: Police Union Contract Talks Won't Be Fully Public

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Thu, Mar 28, 2013 at 2:52 PM

Perhaps bending to reality over rhetoric, the city of Portland's labor negotiations with the Portland Police Association will be only partly public, the Mercury has learned—with some bargaining meetings held on city property and the rest held either at the union's headquarters in Northwest or some other private locale.

The compromise was confirmed by David Rhys, deputy director of the Bureau of Human Resources, and also by Baruti Artharee, Mayor Charlie Hales' director of public safety. Other sources in recent days had been describing a similar arrangement.

"The PPA negotiations are split between public facilities, which we would [send notices for] and are open to the public, and meetings held at the PPA union hall," says Rhys. "That is a private facility and those meetings aren't open to the public."

This was a major issue in 2010 when the PPA's contract was last up for renegotiation. After then-Mayor Sam Adams insisted on opening the meetings, talks stalled for months until a compromise just like the one in place for this round of talks was hammered out. Half the meetings would be public, with the other half private.

There was some further drama last time, after PPA President Daryl Turner and former HR director Yvonne Deckard announced, after the first few public sessions, that all future meetings would be public. But as the Mercury reported in 2011, via a public records request, that turned out to be political theater.

Talks eventually headed into private mediation after a few months. And, before then, much of the contract was hashed out in private meetings at nearby hotels and at union HQ and also over the phone and via email.

The city's rationale is unclear. But when Mayor Charlie Hales was asked about the Mercury report at a candidates forum held last March by the Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform, his answer in support of fully opening the talks was very clear (albeit he was referring to a commitment the previous administration had made and then broken):

"The reason is not just that it's your money, it's that these issues are very important at a policy level as well," he said. "It's sad that commitment was made but not kept. We need to restore the credibility of this office."

I'll have updates from the mayor's office and, hopefully, Turner. So stay tuned.

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