TULSA - The decision by Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett to ask the city council to set a special election to overturn binding arbitration doesn't sit well with the Fraternal Order of Police, and they say his decision is political, not financial.
Tulsa FOP Lodge #93 President Clay Ballenger points to the fact that their offer was actually about $70-80,000 cheaper than the city's offer.
The union also backed off on raises for 60 percent of its officers, seeking only the step raises promised to new recruits and younger officers when they signed on with the department.
Mayor Bartlett has said the union's plan involves permanent raises for the officers, but Ballenger said nothing's permanent under the current system of contract negotiations as mandated by state law.
"Using those terms is really not the correct way to phrase this under the law, because the city can only bargain for one year at a time," he told KRMG. "There is nothing that's permanent in the police contract, that's why we negotiate it every year."
Asked how the binding arbitration worked, Ballenger said that the two sides started with a pool of seven neutral arbitrators, and each side was allowed to strike them until they agreed on one.
Then, each side was allowed to appoint an arbitrator.
The two appointed arbitrators each found for the side which put them on the panel; the third, neutral arbitrator found in favor of the FOP.
City councilors tell KRMG they don't know yet if they'll agree to a special election to potentially override that binding arbitration.
Ballenger, meanwhile, says that might not even be a legal option.
"There's some precedent out there in other cases similar to this in Oklahoma that says you can't hold the election after the end of the fiscal year, which if the election can't be held by July 1st, it's a moot point anyway and our contract is in place which the arbitrators chose."
"We don't really understand," he continued. "The officers are very disappointed, our morale is very low. They feel like the city is not supporting them. And they do have the money, because their offer was more than ours, so it's not a question of 'can they pay for it.'"