The San Luis Obispo City Council can proceed with its scheduled vote tonight to call a special election in August for two ballot measures on major pay and retirement reforms for public safety and other city workers.
On Monday, San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Charles Crandall denied a court order sought by the San Luis Obispo Police Officers Association to stop the council from doing so.
One proposed measure would repeal a provision that lets police and fire unions call for a third-party arbitrator to decide their contracts if the unions and city can’t agree after negotiations. The other would repeal a charter section that requires voter approval to make changes to the city’s retirement offerings.
Both measures — which have raised a contentious battle between the public safety unions and the city — require approval by a majority of local voters.
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Crandall said that the union’s attorney, Alison Berry Wilkinson, was not able to show sufficient cause of “irreparable injury” that would warrant an order from the court preventing the council from moving forward.
“The judge confirmed the legal right of the City Council to put a measure on the ballot before the voters,” said Mayor Jan Marx, who sat through Monday morning’s hearing along with council members Andrew Carter and Kathy Smith. “If he had ruled any other way, it would have been shocking, really.”
The union’s request for a temporary restraining order was an attempt to stop the council until a lawsuit over the issue could be resolved. Filed by Wilkinson on May 3, the lawsuit alleges the city is ignoring its obligations to the union by violating “meet-and-confer” rules that the city must adhere to.
That requirement calls for city leaders to first discuss proposed major changes to any pay or benefits or the way they are determined.
On Monday, after Crandall’s ruling, Wilkinson said the lawsuit would now likely be put on hold.
The union is fighting to keep binding arbitration. San Luis Obispo voters added that provision to the city charter in 2000.
Police union President Matt Blackstone said his organization would have no other choice but to take up their concerns about the measures during the election campaign.
“At this point, there is not any other way to have a voice,” Blackstone said.
The City Council meets at 7 p.m. at City Hall at 990 Palm St. in San Luis Obispo.
Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.