The Town of Marana and the Marana Peace Officers Association are at "impasse" in their discussions of a new memorandum of understanding that would govern their relationship beginning July 1.

With acknowledgement of impasse, material is now being prepared by each side for presentation to the Marana Town Council at its Tuesday, June 15 meeting.

"The union has indicated that we're at impasse," said Deb Thalasitis, assistant town manager. "There is a procedure in the 'meet and confer' ordinance, and we are following that procedure."

"The ordinance calls for the parties to first come together and bring forth items that we do agree with, and then create a list of those items we disagree about," said Suzanne Machain, Marana's human resources director. "We sent a letter to them, asking that they provide a list. We received some language from them with no explanation other than the submission of some language in particular articles. It's not a list. It's just some language."

Mario Williams, president of the Marana Police Officers Association, told the town council last week that MPOA has "ongoing issues with the contract that is currently at impasse. We don't normally come to council" unless a disagreement is serious. "I do believe at this time it is serious," Williams said.

In a June 3 letter to employees of the Marana Police Department, Town Manager Gilbert Davidson said a new memorandum of understanding has been under discussion since March 25, with more than 350 hours of management team time invested "in an effort to reach an agreement."

Before negotiations began, Williams claimed, the town had decided to "take the take-home vehicles, continue pay freezes, and discontinue the uniform allowance. These decisions have led to a level of frustration. I'm here to ask for some help and try to get this resolved. Let's get this done, so we can move forward."

In his letter, Davidson said Marana's "monumental task" of cutting general fund spending by more than $4 million left him "no choice but to move forward" with a series of cost reductions, among them the elimination of take-home vehicles for all but essential on-call personnel, no vehicle allowances for department heads, a freeze on merit and step salary increases and reductions to "ancillary items such as cell phones, uniform allowances and training." The town did save employees money by bidding its benefits packages, he noted.

"Our top three things do not cost the town a single penny," Williams told the council, though he did not elaborate on those three things. "We are asking for a little bit of cooperation. The town is willing to take, but has not given back on the other side. That's the thing we're frustrated with right now."

"I am saddened to hear you walked away from the table," Councilwoman Roxanne Ziegler told Williams. "I thought we were further along than this. From what I understand, our staff has spent hours and hours with you.

"I want you to send me what your grievances are, in writing," Ziegler continued. "I've supported the MPOA for years, and I still want to support you. You need to show me something. At this point, I don't have any idea what your grievances are."

Town Councilman Jon Post expressed his support for the police, and his disappointment that "the bulk of them got up and left right before we were about to discuss the budget."

"Both the MPOA and the town will have an opportunity to present their positions regarding the issues," Davidson wrote. "I want to assure everyone that there will be no surprises in management's proposals. …. I recognize that two years of wage freezes, coupled with changes to take-home vehicles and uniform allowances, has an impact on you. But these specific changes, and more have affected all town employees."

MPOA's Williams could not be reached for further comment.

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