City Council backs off previous negotiations stance

March 13, 2002|BY DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

Hagerstown's Mayor and City Council on Tuesday backed off their earlier decision to hold negotiations with city employee labor unions in public after union representatives said they want negotiations to be done behind closed doors.

In February, the council approved a plan to hold union talks during meetings that would be open to the public.

On Tuesday, representatives for the four union groups that represent city workers said they would rather not negotiate in public.

"We feel negotiating in public is not a good idea," said Jim Bestpitch, who represents the police officers' union and another city employee union.

Bestpitch said positions taken to the negotiating table sometimes change as union and management representatives compromise, and he said that process could be misunderstood by the public.

The union representatives said they were OK with having the mayor and council members sit in on negotiations. All four union groups need new labor contracts for the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1.


Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire said having the negotiations in open- or closed-door sessions is not a big deal to him. What's important is that the council will be dealing directly with union representatives, he said.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner, who first suggested holding union negotiations in public, was not at the Tuesday meeting.

The state Open Meetings Act allows the mayor and council to negotiate with employee unions in closed-door sessions.

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