Baltimore County violated its own employment law when it refused to designate an outside agency to handle an unfair labor practice complaint filed by the union that represents county police officers.
Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Cox in a ruling Friday said the county violated the Employee Relations Act. A written decision was not immediately available but the ruling requires the county to hire an outside agency unless it appeals the decision or opts to enter negotiations with the police union.
"The judge ruled that the Employee Relations Act means exactly what it says," said Cole Weston, president of the Baltimore County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 4. "[County Executive] Kevin Kamenetz did not follow the law."
Cox's ruling has no effect on the county's discontinuation of the incentive but would require the county to hire an outside arbitrator to review the union's complaint.
County officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
The lawsuit centers around the end of a program that offered county employees, including police officers, a $100 savings bond as an incentive to not use sick time. The county ended the program in June 2011.
The union claimed the county changed terms of employment and asked the county to negotiate on the issue. When the county refused, the union asked for the county to designate an outside agency to investigate its unfair labor practice complaint, according to court records. (The original complaint filed by the union in October is attached to this story.)
Initially the county agreed but later told the union they would not select or pay for the outside arbitration service and would not participate in an outside review.
"This is not the first time we've had to go through this with the county," Weston said.
In April, the union won an arbitration case that prevented the county from moving lieutenants out of the union and into the Police Executives Corps. The arbitrator in that case wrote in his ruling that the county did not negotiate in good faith.
Officials for other unions have accused the county of bully tactics in their negotiations with the county.