The City is trumpeting a decision this week from a Department of Labor Relations (DLR) hearing officer that sided with them in the battle over how Fire Chief Tony Carli was picked as chief some years ago – and confirmed as a permanent pick this past January.
Meanwhile, the Fire Union said the decision by the hearing officer doesn’t clear up the matter, and they are pondering an appeal to straighten out all of the issues – including collective bargaining issues.
Chief Carli, the City of Everett’s Fire Chief was named permanent on January 27, 2020 and confirmed by the Everett City Council. His appointment to permanent was not without controversy. Carli, a 20-year veteran of the Everett Fire Department, climbed the ranks and was named the City of Everett’s acting Fire Chief on June of 2016.
Everett Firefighters Local 143, the Union that represents Everett’s Fire Department with the exception of the Chief, contended that the appointment of Carli was done without merit. Specifically, they stated that the “impacts of promotional procedures to a managerial position should be declared a mandatory subject of bargaining, especially where, as here, the incumbent was involved in the promotional process and because the City did not bargain”.
However, in a recent opinion issued by Attorney James Sunkenberg, the hearing officer presiding over the complaint for the Department of Labor Relations, he determined that
“The union has not established that the City’s decision impacted a mandatory subject of bargaining,” read his decision. “Accordingly, it has not established that the City violated the law.
“The Union’s position collapses the distinction between decisional and impact bargaining and that does not persuade me,” he continued. “Here, the Union does not identify any impacts on a mandatory subject of bargaining that result from the City’s decision”. Ultimately, the City’s decision to use an assessment center to select the Chief’s position was well within their rights.”
Mayor Carlo DeMaria maintained the selection of chief a under his jurisdiction and doesn’t require collective bargaining, even if using an Assessment Center.
“The role of Fire Chief is a managerial role under the jurisdiction of the Executive Office,” he said. “While the union’s input will always be welcome and taken into consideration, I applaud the decision of the Department of Labor Relations in being able to differentiate the roles between a union employee and that of executive level management.”
Said Chief Carli, “I can understand that new processes may seem difficult to grasp in the fire service with so much longstanding tradition. However, the fire service is changing along with the management of it. The City and other communities across the state have moved towards assessment center testing, rather than written. I appreciate the Department of Labor Relations understanding of management’s rights to select a Department Head.”
Union President Craig Hardy said they strongly disagree with the decision, and also said they will contemplate an appeal – noting that the hearing officer’s decision is not a final ruling.
“This hearing officers decision only decided the City didn’t violate any collective bargaining laws,” he said. “It did not decide that the process was fair or objective. We still believe it’s inappropriate for the Fire Chief position to be selected in this manner regardless of the ruling of the hearing officer, which we strongly disagree with and are pondering an Appeal with the DLR.”
He said the Union still believes having Carli participate in crafting the Assessment Center when he was knowingly a candidate was not fair to other members that wanted to try for the position.
“We believe the city conducted an unfair and biased process to benefit an ally of the Mayor,” he said. “The hearing established that the Mayor promised to promote the Acting Chief regardless of his performance in the process. The Acting Chief was involved in the critical decision-making of the process the City chose for the seat he occupied and wanted to fill permanently. Ultimately the City chose the process that advantaged the Acting Chief’s chances for the promotion. The City did not bargain with the union despite effectively promising to bargain this new process that benefitted the Acting Chief.”
Hardy said they would decide within 10 days whether they will appeal the decision by the DLR.