It takes two to tango, and the City of San Antonio is finding it increasingly difficult to find a dance partner as it attempts to get police and fire associations to agree to cuts in their lucrative health care benefits, 1200 WOAI news reports.
In e-mails between new San Antonio Police Officers Association negotiator Ron DeLord and city chief employment lawyer Jeffrey Londa, obtained by 1200 WOAI news, DeLord announces plans to delay negotiations until at least the end of this month so he can familiarize himself with the issues.
"As in life events arise that require a delay," DeLord says. "I have cancelled the sessions and our expert. I am the new counsel for the Association and I am not up to speed."
Then, DeLord indicates that the SAPOA position may be hardening regarding the urgency of cutting health care benefits.
"We will just have to agree to disagree that serious economic challenges exist and that meeting next week will dictate a timely resolution," DeLord writes in the e-mail.
The San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association has so far declined to even appear at the bargaining table to discuss the possibility of benefit cuts. DeLord vows that the SAPOA is not planning to break off negotiations.
In a letter to Londa, DeLord declares his commitment to 'negotiate a new contract which is mutually beneficial to our citizens, the business community, the city administration, and our member officers.'
DeLord is a heavyweight in Texas police contract negotiations. The long time President of the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, DeLord, who is an attorney, has led police contract negotiations around the state for twenty years, and has been a very effective advocate for police officers.
The idea that DeLord does not think that 'serious economic challenges exist' is a blow to City Manager Sheryl Sculley, who says the negotiations are critical to avoid city public safety costs taking up 100% of the city's general fund budget. She says the health care benefits, which involve the city picking up the entire tab for health benefits, are uniquely generous. Also on the table for negotiations, at least from the city's perspective, is a prior agreement which has San Antonio taxpayers picking up the tab for all police and firefighters personal legal costs, including such non work related items as divorces and wills.
Sources say the city is preparing to also make an issue of the fact that many police officers and firefighters don't live in the City of San Antonio, meaning they personally don't pay any of the local property taxes which pay for the police and fire departments, and for the benefits they receive.
It is possible that negotiations may not resume until May 19th, according to the e-mails.